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artisanal film reviews | by maryann johanson

Juwanna Mann (review)

He Got Game

[minor spoilers, but only if you’re oblivious to the very, very obvious]

Juwanna Mann?

No, ju don’t.

Oh, this is the kind of movie during which you want to bang your head on the seat in front of you, at its cluelessness, at its idiocy, at its utterly misplaced earnestness. Why on Earth would a male screenwriter, a male director, and a male star believe that slapping a pair of boobs on themselves gives them miraculous insight into what it means to be a woman?
Juwanna Mann is nothing if not a sorry retread of Bosom Buddies, the 1980s Tom Hanks/Peter Scolari sitcom, which, if I recall correctly, jammed more gender-bending comedy and gender-relation commentary in one slim 22-minute episode than the brains — and I use the term loosely — behind Juwanna Mann could ever hope to conceive. (I demand a DVD box set of Bosom Buddies immediately so I can check and be sure.) In both Mann and Buddies, men believe themselves forced into a situation in which they have no choice but to disguise themselves as women, figuring “How hard could it be, being a mere woman?” One of these attempts managed some depth, and how pathetic is it that it’s the silly sitcom that did so?

Jamal Jeffries (Miguel A. Núñez Jr.) is a hotshot player in some faux NBA league who gets kicked off the team for some very unsportsmanlike conduct. His agent, Lorne Daniels (Kevin Pollak: Stolen Summer, looking very embarrassed) despairs of his ever playing again. So Jamal, with the help of his sassy- maternal- black- lady- caricature of an aunt (Jenifer Lewis: Mystery Men), snaps on a bra, buys some tampons, joins a women’s pro league, and ends up learning the true meaning of Christmas. Or whatever.

Screenwriter Bradley Allenstein concocted this lunacy, and I hope his mother never sees this movie, because he apparently thinks that all women do is sit around talking about their boyfriends, painting each other’s toenails, and synchronizing their menstrual cycles. This isn’t a movie about women, like it wants to pretend it is — this is a movie about what men imagine women are “really” like when they’re not busting men’s balls, and it’s a sad, stunted vision of half the human race. Jamal, under Juwanna’s caked-on pancake makeup that magically never runs during a sweaty hour running up and down a basketball court, naturally falls in love with the team captain, Michelle Langford (Vivica A. Fox), who is perfect and lovely (unlike, whew!, one of those manly, mustachioed women athletes), who is the one who ends up teaching him the true meaning of Christmas, which is that teamwork is Important and men who play on innate female insecurity and fear of being alone are Bad.

Of course, men as a species don’t fare too well either: the idea that men are assholes to women in general until they fall in love with one specifically is a pretty dispirited view. But any kind of Truth is besides the point in movies like this one, in which a man in dress is assumed to be automatically hilarious, and a man who falls for a man in a dress is even funnier, cuz, you know, it means he’s secretly gay or something, and we all know how humorous that is.

Juwanna Mann is the kind of clichéd junk during which the first (and, please God) the only time you see if, you can speak the dialogue right along with the characters, because it’s so paint-by-numbers you can see it all coming a mile off. Of course Michelle, who’s been so badly mistreated and lied to by her playa boyfriend, will forgive all Jamal’s deception as Juwanna and fall madly in love with him in the last scene. Of course Jamal will, having learned the true meaning of Christmas, be allowed to play once more in the men’s league, because slumming with the gals is good for the male soul.


MPAA: rated PG-13 for language and sex-related material

viewed at a semipublic screening with an audience of critics and ordinary moviegoers

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