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“Japa!”: A Tangled Time-Loop Comedy That Loses Its Way

Isioma Osaje’s ambitious debut feature promises a fresh take on time-loop comedy. Despite earnest performances and creative flashes, the Nollywood film stumbles with inconsistent tone and pacing.
March 23, 2024
2:09 pm

The title alone – “Japa!” – grabs you immediately, tapping into the zeitgeist of Nigerians seeking greener pastures abroad. With such a provocative hook, Isioma Osaje’s speculative debut feature promises a fresh, culturally relevant take on the time-loop comedy. Sadly, the film fumbles its execution, resulting in a convoluted and ultimately unsatisfying journey.


The story follows Mezu (Jide Kene Achufusi), a disgruntled teacher desperate to escape the confines of Nigeria for a new life in the United States. But just hours before his long-awaited flight, a cruel twist of fate leaves him penniless after a theft. As if that weren’t enough, Mezu soon finds himself trapped in a bizarre time loop, forced to relive the same fateful day over and over again. His colleague Kamsi (Adesuwa Etomi-Wellington), also ensnared in this temporal paradox, becomes an unlikely ally as they grapple with the inexplicable forces underlying their predicament.



On paper, the premise tantalizes with its intriguing blend of comedy and metaphysical musings. However, the film’s execution falters from the outset, struggling to find a consistent tone or establish clear rules governing the time loop. The pacing suffers tremendously from the repetitive nature of the loop, with the middle act feeling like an interminable slog as the characters spin their wheels. Compounding this issue is the screenplay’s muddled approach to the characters’ motivations and the consequences of their actions within the loop, leaving viewers bewildered and disengaged.


JAPA – Adesua Etomi Wellington

Anchoring the film are the earnest performances of Achufusi and Etomi-Wellington, who infuse their roles with warmth and likeability. Their chemistry shines through, providing moments of genuine humor and heart amidst the narrative chaos. Sadly, the supporting cast, populated by comedians like Layi Wasabi, fail to provide the necessary levity, resulting in a tonal imbalance that undercuts both the humor and the drama.


Osaje’s directorial choices are a mixed bag, with flashes of creativity and flair punctuated by derivative sequences that feel lifted from popular time-loop films like “Groundhog Day” and “Palm Springs.” The film’s attempts to infuse Nigerian cultural elements, such as the concept of “Omenala,” feel underdeveloped and haphazardly integrated, depriving the narrative of a sense of authenticity and richness.



Thematically, “Japa!” struggles with the desire for greener pastures and the sacrifices inherent in that pursuit – a potent subject matter that resonates deeply within the Nigerian diaspora. However, the film’s messaging comes across as muddled and contradictory, alternating between validating the characters’ dreams of emigration and advocating for contentment and embracing one’s circumstances. This dissonance undermines the narrative’s emotional resonance, leaving viewers uncertain of the filmmaker’s ultimate perspective.


In comparison to other recent Nigerian comedies like “The Razz Guy” and “Small Talk,” which deftly balanced humor and heart, “Japa!” lacks the sharp writing and consistent hilarity that elevated those films. While Osaje’s ambition to blend genres and infuse cultural elements is admirable, the execution simply falls short, leaving audiences with a disjointed and unfulfilling journey.


JAPA – Blossom Chikwujekwu

Beneath its tangled narrative and tonal inconsistencies, “Japa!” does possess moments of genuine insight and pathos. Achufusi and Etomi-Wellington’s performances anchor the film, providing a relatable human core amidst the metaphysical shenanigans. And Osaje’s bold experimentation with genre and cultural representation, while flawed, hints at a unique voice worth nurturing.


Ultimately, however, “Japa!” fails to deliver a satisfying or coherent narrative experience. Its ambitious genre-blending and cultural infusion are admirable in theory, but the execution stumbles, leaving audiences with a muddled, meandering journey.


For a film tackling the weighty topic of emigration and the enduring allure of greener pastures, “Japa!” misses the opportunity to provide insightful commentary or lasting emotional impact. While not devoid of merits, it ultimately loses its way in the tangled web of its own ambitions.



Release Date: March 8, 2024

Runtime: 1 hour, 50 minutes, 54 seconds

Streaming Service: Prime Video

Director: Isioma Osaje

Cast: Jidekene Achufusi, Adesua Etomi-wellington, Layi Wasabi, Blossom Chukujekwu, Seun Ajayi, Mofe Duncan, and Bolaji Ogunmola

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