There’s every chance that you’ve heard a story like Kambili: The Whole 30 yards at some point in your life. If you haven’t, you have seen it in the movies – most likely with a different title but a plot that seems very similar. Like most romantic comedies, we find all of the predictable moments: heightened notions of love, and a lot of tropes that are cliche to this genre. Kambili: The Whole 30 Yards doesn’t disappoint and sticks to the script. We are introduced to the flawed protagonist, Kambili Maduka who is seeking redemption, where redemption, in this case, is being the whole 30 yards of wife material.
Kambili is a tardy and disorganized spendthrift lady in her late 20s. As she turns a year older, she becomes hell-bent on getting married before she turns 30. While she moves through the world with cavalier disinterest, she learns that she isn’t exactly wife material; and that’s the premise of the movie – to get Kambili to become responsible, driven, focused, and ultimately, wife material.
Nancy Isime plays the titular Kambili who is ready to put in the work for her prince-charming, John (Mawuli Gavor) just to get that ring. Fulfilling all the other tropes, she has her coterie of friends and allies who are very important for the winning rom-com formula. There’s the love-struck bestie, Chidi (Jide Kene Achufusi), the other friend, Biodun (Venita Akpofure), and her fiancee, Jesse (Koye Kekere-Ekun). It also features performances from Toyin Abraham, Elvina Ibru, Sharon Ooja, and Uzo Arukwe.
Romantic comedies like Kambili often point a mirror at society and how we hold certain things to some unrealistic standards. In Kemi Adetiba’s The Wedding Party, it is the Nigerian love of extravagant weddings. In Kambili, it’s seeking perfection in a bid to get a ring on your finger, a journey that involves an unhealthy obsession with marriage and changing yourself just to be found suitable by someone else. Understandably, being wife material made Kambili a better person, but there are many ways that story could have gone.
The joys of Kambili: The Whole 30 yards lie in the small mannerisms and cliche stereotypes that keep this film as authentically Nigerian as you’d expect. You may also find some joys in the moments of discord and enmity as well, but outside that, it goes on for way too long which can be a problem.
Also, for a romantic comedy, a couple of times, it feels very emotionless. It’s almost like things are happening and you’re supposed to believe because you’re told to, but you cannot feel anything going on. The one standout scene in the movie is when Chidi (Jide Kene) and his girlfriend Linda (Sharon Ooja) have a heated conversation about their relationship and Kambili’s place in it.
I also noted that the development for the character, Kambili fell flat in the authenticity stakes. We’re introduced to Kambili and walked through everything, but there’s not much to be seen – for instance, why does Kambili pick art as her calling? If the paintings in her home are supposed to indicate her love for the arts, then it fails massively. At best, from what we are told about Kambili, I’d expect her inspired business idea to be fashion related.
For director Kayode Kasum, Kambili feels like a very familiar playground as he’s worked on romantic comedies like Love is Yellow (2019) and This Lady Called Life (2020) in the past. He does okay with most of Kambili, but it leaves you asking – is this the best or is the bar lower for romantic comedies?