Lunchtime Heroes, directed by the award winning Seyi Babatope, is the story of a group of seven students who are considered unsuitable for a statewide competition and are left in the care of a serving corps member who is out of place at the upmarket school.
The last movie that leaned this heavily on a mostly child cast was Just a Night, a horror story about a school bus with kids on excursion who get stuck on a beach with a vengeful spirit. The film delivered, making it a classic and indelible from the minds of most 90s children.
Seyi Babatope’s Lunchtime Heroes introduces the Nigerian audience to a new set of child characters. He takes on the challenge of telling a story different from the Nollywood norm of romance, blood money and ‘action movies’. The overall idea is ambitious, a family-targeted movie driven by a child cast in an industry that has failed to develop the talent of its child actors. Knowing this, the expectation from the child actors is not high; it is expected that the other actors in the movie would provide a stellar performance to cover up for the children’s shortcomings. This, sadly, does not happen.
Dakore Egbuson-Akande’s principal is exaggerated and undeveloped, as her part becomes more confusing as the movie progresses. The character metamorphoses from steely and mean to understanding and then to corrupt without reason. Ditto teachers of the JSS 2 classes who are taking part in different competitions; they exaggerate their parts unnecessarily. Done right, this over-acting would have made for humour but in this case, it is a little over the top.
For what it is, Lunchtime Heroes is a good effort which is undermined by a less than dedicated attention to detail on the director’s part. Details: A car falling out of an airplane with a parachute holding it is ‘impossible’ but done right can be believable; a governor’s wife (Omoni Oboli) going for an event with only one car and one aide is possible but in Nigeria is unbelievable. Also: DSTV is not a television channel; a three-course meal has one main course; a secondary school, no matter how posh always has some noise during recess. The filmmaker tries to recreate this background noise in one scene using recorded sound but the rest of the movie incredibly is quiet.
Diana Yekini shines in her role Ms Banke, the ‘corper’ teacher who uses her love for cooking to endear herself to the children and help them discover themselves. She is in turns hurt, angry, uncertain and purposeful; each state earnestly represented.
Even with all its limitations, Lunchtime Heroes is an entertaining movie, one that can be enjoyed by all members of the family, but it is easily forgettable.