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Movie Review: Once Upon The 80’s – Where Will Our Films Go Without Substance?



What makes a good film first of all is the story and how the story is told. Over the years some skeptics have argued that besides lacking originality, the average Ghanaian film was just a timeline of audiovisuals sitting on poorly told stories.  Some of our filmmakers are passionate about winning over those skeptics by attaching seriousness to their work and making sure they do their best with whatever they have at their disposal. Whilst others appear to only be keeping up appearances and dillydallying with mediocrity.

Sawudi GH Multimedia & Krupps Production are out with their next film  titled “Once Upon The 80’s“ after giving us Baabani and You May Kill The Bride last year.

The film is a comedy telling the story of National service personnel posted to a village to teach in the local school. They are faced with challenges as they try to help one of the students from a troubled home.

Shrouded in a title that alludes the idea of a period film set in the 1980’s, Once Upon The 80’s fails at living up to its hype and expectations. Although the producers tried their best to set the story in the 1980’s they failed woefully at this.  There was no accuracy or consistency in the costuming used in this film, neither in the setting and choice of props. It appears no extra attention was given these intrinsic requirements of telling a period piece. Surprisingly, even lines from some of the characters had slang and references from subjects or events not from that 80’s era. Clearly, you can’t be talking about someone’s number not going through when mobile phones where not even a thing in Ghana during the 80s.

The central story of the troubled student and his mother being told in this film felt more like an afterthought to what seems like the original idea of making a film set in the 80’s. Hence it not siting well in the entire film. They could have easily told that story more clearer and weightier even if it was set in present day.

Largely thanks to some of the cast, “Once Upon The 80’s” does not waste all of its run time. Hogan Gabriel holds the performances together with the character he plays. He clearly outshines his counterparts in every scene he appears in, both in humor and delivery.

Production elements were pretty much decent in this film but we couldn’t help but notice too many continuity errors especially in the scenes that made use of shots from multiple angles.

To us at this film lacked substance so it scored 4.1/10 on our scale. It felt like a complete waste of time after having to sit through its many inconsistencies only to be presented with a meaningless climax that left people stunned in their seats trying to process what they had just sat through.

It’s one thing going into a movie without any expectations and getting let down and another thing going in with very high hopes only to be disappointed by everything that could have easily been done right if a little more seriousness had been attached to the job.

Maybe this is the director’s fault considering that it’s his first feature film or it could be the fault of the production company for failing to attach enough seriousness to the most important part of the project which is, the story and how it is told. If there is one thing that was flawless about this film it would be the beauty of the very deceptive posters and promo artworks that “over sells” the film.

The success of any film is not determined by how many tickets it sells on opening night alone, but also how far and wide the film is able to reach. Believe it or not “substance” sells films and substance is in the story of the film and how it is told. Where will a film go without substance? Certainly not past the opening night.

Nonetheless, if you are interested in seeing a film that would only make you laugh, then this is the film for you. There are enough scenes for that but don’t expect too much from the story and its correlation to the title of the film.

If you’ve seen Once Upon The 80’s, kindly share your thoughts and feedback with us in the comments section below.


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Second on my list of addictions is Movies.. the only thing I could possibly love more is my Dearest Waakye lol. Nothing else does a better job of reminding me that ANYTHING is possible with the right amount of effort. I have great eye for details and flaws in scripts. Shallow scripts bore me. I am an avid reader. Your everyday Mr Nice guy. Always the last to speak in a room full of smart people. Half Human, half Martian but full MOVIE FREAK.


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