Directed by: Jesse Vaughan
Starring: Miguel A. Nunez Jr., Vivica A. Fox, Kevin Pollak, Tommy Davidson
Juwanna spend 91 minutes watching Miguel A. Nunez Jr. (a supporting and bit-part actor, suddenly -- and ill-advisedly -- promoted to star status here) learn about the value of teamwork by dressing up as a woman? Juwanna see a lame, unfunny re-hash of Tootsie. played out on a basketball court? Juwanna movie with absolutely no surprises? If you answered "yes" to any of the above questions, then I suggest you make tracks to Juwanna Mann, a work of such cosmic God-awfulness that theater managers nationwide will be asking patrons, "Juwanna get your money back?" No, we're not talking Pootie Tang bad here. This is an altogether different brand of bad. Pootie Tang at least had a certain mesmerizing quality in its undeniable strangeness. The only strangeness in evidence in this tax write-off masquerading as a movie is how on earth it ever got made. Someone actually wrote this. Others read it and decided it was good enough to make. A major studio (Warner Bros.) gave it the green light. At no point does it seem to have occurred to anyone to question the wisdom of the whole enterprise. That in itself is not only strange, it's remarkable -- and thoroughly disheartening. How could that many people could collectively evidence such an alarming lack of judgment? I mean, that's the sort of thing you expect to see in politics, not in the arts. With any luck, though, the process of natural selection will set term limits for the perpetrators of this mind-numbing exercise in unfunniness. For those who can muster sufficient enthusiasm to care, the story line gives us Miguel A. Nunez Jr. as Jamal Jeffries, an egomaniacal basketball star (the man carries a rubber stamp for "signing" autographs), who gets kicked out of the league when he opts to show his displeasure at a game by stripping off mother-naked in front of the spectators. He then hits upon the idea of dressing up as a woman and playing ball in this guise. It's a measure of the film's basic stupidity that his new name, Juwanna Mann (the result of a misunderstanding), is never questioned by anyone in the course of the film. Not that the film is content to leave it's sloppy nonbelievability at this. Oh, my goodness, no. It asks us to accept the idea that donning a wig makes for an impenetrable disguise (the moment Jamal loses his wig, the crowd realizes who he is). It drags (yes, I said drags) in the "gag" of Jamal taking an insurance physical for the team, running out of the doctor's office to avoid exposure -- and nothing more ever comes of the situation. It exists in a world where Jamal's playing propels the women's team into the finals (now, there's a sexist subtext for you!) and yet no question is ever raised about the validity of their status after he's de-wigged. Juwanna call this "suspension of disbelief?" Fine, but I'm more apt to call it contempt for the intelligence of the audience. Nunez is a man who has gone through no less than six variations on his name during his career. After this, I'd suggest a seventh, more extreme name-change. That will spare his family the inconvenience of all having to change their names. Somewhat disconcertingly, Nunez makes a better-looking woman than he does a man, but in either gender, he's a singularly uncharismatic performer. No one emerges from Juwanna Mann covered in glory. Even reliable Kevin Pollack seems sincere only once -- and that's when he cries, "Somebody kill me!" Believe me, I felt much the same way about 30 minutes into the proceedings. Juwanna see a movie about men dressing up as women? Try renting Some Like It Hot, Victor/Victoria, Tootsie, or, best of all, The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert. Hell, your time would be better spent with To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything, Julie Newmar, which ought to put this film in perspective.