Feb 18, 2018 – The Royal Hibiscus Hotel Movie Review
By Onoshe Nwabuikwu
Valentine’s Day has come and gone as it must. Let’s take another look at The Royal Hibiscus Hotel, the movie from Ebony Life Films, directed by Ishaya Bako. EbonyLife Films are the producers of The Wedding Party (1 and 2). Ishaya Bako among other things directed Genevieve Nnaji and others in Road to Yesterday (2016).
I saw The Royal Hibiscus Hotel or RHH last September at the Toronto International Film Festival. It was its very first screening, before its more glamourous premiere. I was underwhelmed, to put it mildly.
As the story goes, Ope (Zainab Balogun) quits her job as a chef in London to return to manage the family hotel, The Royal Hibiscus Hotel. Unknown to her, her father is selling the said hotel to pay off debts. On her way to the airport, she bumps into Deji (Kenneth Okolie). You can probably fill in the rest. Ope’s parents are Rachel Oniga (Rose) and Jide Kosoko (Chief Adeniyi). Somewhere, in the background, there’s Olu Jacobs and Joke Silva. This movie is not short of stars. In fact, on paper, this should have worked like a charm.
Instead, something is not quite right. Unfortunately, I can’t put my finger on the exact missing ingredient. So, let’s run though the things that don’t seem to add up. The plot is of course a good place to start. The story is rather predictable but I don’t mind predictability. This is me, a Telemundo fan. However, this story feels thin at certain times; as if there aren’t enough characters but you see that the characters are not that few. Can it be that the characters don’t have enough to do? I feel Lala Akindoju’s talents are ‘wasted’ as a horny vapid receptionist. And is the pairing of Oniga and Jide Kosoko too much like constipation or just a plain bad idea? I liked Kosoko in The Meeting. He was hilarious just by not trying too hard to be funny.
The Royal Hibiscus Hotel first struck me like a school project. But upon further reflection, I see that’s not fair to school projects. Whatever shortcomings they have, school projects are not short on imagination, mostly. That’s when people have very crazy, very impracticable but hugely imaginative ideas. No, a Nigerian chef movie is not the kind of imaginative I have in mind. As for RHH, it has arguably the right ingredients by way of the actors. If it tastes flat and sounds too much ‘been there, done that…’, it will have to be a combination of different factors including the technical side.
On the bright side, there’s Zainab Balogun, one of the reasons I’d see The Royal Hibiscus Hotel again. Even as improbable as her being a chef is, she manages to pull it off.
The Royal Hibiscus Hotel cast: Zainab Balogun, Kenneth Okolie, Rachel Oniga, Deyemi Okanlawon, Jide Kosoko, Charles Inojie, Kemi ‘Lala Akindoju, Ini Dim Okojie, O. C. Ukeje.