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Juwanna Mann

  Juwanna Man
Vivica A. Fox and Miguel Nunez Jr. pose for a failed Nike campaign.

© 2002, Warner Bros.
All Rights Reserved

Hey, wait a minute! Didn't we already see this movie this year? Seems to me there was a film from last March called "Sorority Boys" with the same premise of males finding a way through the system by dressing up as females, itself a plot used time and again. At least "Boys" had the luck to have been directed by a former creative instrument of "The Simpsons" (Wally Wolodarsky). All "Juwanna Mann" (IMDb listing) can claim is a director whose previous work included a Paula Abdul video, and a star by the name of Miguel Nunez Jr. Not really inspiring talent here.

Basketball superstar Jamal (Nunez Jr., "Life") is the hottest player in the sport, but also the most detested. Suspended indefinitely from the game for his on- (and off-) court behavior, Jamal finds his finances, his women (Lil' Kim), and his popularity flushed down the drain. Finding no way to restart his career as a man, Jamal becomes Juwanna, and joins a professional female basketball team. With the help of his teammates (including Vivica A. Fox and Kim Wayans), and agent (Kevin Pollak, "Stolen Summer"), Juwanna becomes the star of the sport, but as soon as her stock rises, so does the demand for Jamal, leaving the torn superstar at odds about who he/she wants to continue on as.

"Juwanna Mann" is another variation on the "Some Like It Hot" method of mayhem. Any comedy can get mileage out of cross-dressing, but it takes a truly interesting script to bring this concept to life. "Juwanna Mann" is, unfortunately, lacking any kind of ambition. The movie sets the bar low right from the very opening sequence where Jamal strips off his clothes and gyrates his midsection in front of thousands of onlookers. It continues on through scenes of Juwanna relieving himself at a urinal, trying to find the right set of fake breasts for his outfits, and eventually dealing with the team physical. "Juwanna Mann" wants to play to the lowest common denominator, and honestly, I can't blame it. This is such a throwaway picture that you can already smell the inside of a Blockbuster the minute you walk into the theater.

"Juwanna Mann" also stoops to make a little fun of the women who play professional basketball. No, "Juwanna Mann" can't be bothered to treat the sport with some respect, instead choosing to play up the lesbian and masculine aspects of the women who play in the professional leagues. It's very crude and a smidge offensive that "Mann" would be so careless with the stereotypes that have plagued the sport. But hey, this is the type of picture that would do anything for a laugh, short of coming down from the screen and tickling you. I just wish they could've been smarter in choosing their targets.

Curious, though, is the film's predictable whittling down for a "box office friendly" PG-13 rating. Jamal has some choice words for the basketball commission when he's thrown out, and in place of looping over some F-words, or even cutting them out, director Jesse Vaughn instead just bleeps over them, as if this was an especially bawdy version of "Television's Bloopers And Practical Jokes." Again, I stress that nothing less should be expected of this film, but good heavens this seems kind of low tech for a motion picture. And it doesn't even get a laugh! Just a confused audience wondering why a motion picture would actually use the bleeping system to get rid of swearing. Just as bizarre are the end credit "outtakes" which are comprised of scenes that aren't even in the film.

In what is his first true starring role, long time character actor Miguel Nunez Jr. finally gets his chance in the sun. An imposing actor, both in size and decibel level, Nunez is a fairly decent actor, but more committed than talented. "Juwanna Mann" offers Nunez a big, fat canvas to paint on comedically, and while the script stinks, Nunez overcomes it simply by looking interested in the garbage he's helping to realize. Nunez manages some of the few laughs there are in "Juwanna Mann," the rest provided by comedian Tommy Davidson as Juwanna's admirer, the failed rapper Puff Smokey Smoke.

Yes, I said it: there are some laugh out loud moments in "Juwanna Mann." However, they're few and far between. You mostly have to sit through female mustache jokes and double entendres about "balls" to get there, and the journey ain't pretty. Wait for video on this one.

Filmfodder Grade: D+








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