Adesuwa (Misola Iyun), a princess, is coaxed by her brother, the king, to get married; so he can assume sole ownership of their joint inheritance. Her husband, draconian Prince Fabian (Wole Ojo) abuses her until she is forced to leave and become a nanny to King Josiah’s (Seun Akindele) two disrespectful children, who lose their mother (Sandra Eze) in a domestic accident as she tries to escape from Josiah who catches her in adultery.
At the outset, the narration gives the feel that Once Upon a Time is a children’s film until a number of sex and violent scenes are unravelled. It takes a long while for the audience to really understand what is going on because the film seems more like a TV series given the many characters that are exposed in the first 15 to 20 minutes without the movie necessarily moving forward.
A plot which is far from taut and characters who are at two removes from reality mar the story of Once Upon a Time, a potential children’s blockbuster film. The characters are either too inhumane for no reason at all, like Maureen and Fabian or too good to be human like Adesuwa. Cause and effect, no matter how subtle, are non-existent in this film, where the story wobbles to the extent that the viewer manages to stay awake until the end. The child actors fail to immerse themselves in their roles; they just make insulting remarks, at times, managing to withhold smiles as they do so.
Tunde Olaoye, who also directed the interesting film Married, but Living Single, misses the rare chance to tell a remarkable children’s story in Once Upon a time. Many adults will find this flick extremely boring, but if a few scenes were removed and replaced with some other lively ones, a brilliant children’s film will have emerged. This is also a call on producers to pay attention to children’s film as a category in film-making.