by Eric D. Snider
Released: June 21, 2002
There's a man who dresses as a woman, and Juwanna Mann is the fake name he comes up with. It's a jokey name, obviously, up there with Seymour Butts and Amanda Huggenkiss. But NO ONE in the film notices it. No one ever says, "'Juwanna Mann'? What a funny name...!" No one even seem to think twice about it. Which is just one of many reasons why "Juwanna Mann" makes juwanna kill yourself.
What a stiflingly unfunny and unoriginal mess this is! Such half-hearted effort! Such a waste of talented people like Vivica A. Fox and Kevin Pollak! Such an affront to decent, hard-working transvestites everywhere!
It is about a maverick basketball player named Jamal Jeffries (Miguel A. NuÃ±ez Jr.) who plays for the fictional Charlotte Beat in the fictional United Basketball Association. (The NBA -- which has previously been associated with such atrocities as Dennis Rodman -- apparently didn't want to be involved with this movie.) Jamal is an egotistical jerk and a hothead, and his final stunt of stripping naked during a game gets him booted out of the league.
Soon, he is desperate for money. His girlfriend (played by Lil Kim, the world's skankiest woman) has left him. He actually is very good at basketball, and it's his sole talent. His only choice? To dress in drag and get a contract with a women's team.
Movies like this perplex me, because I can't imagine any situation in which I would feel I HAD to dress as a woman, much less where I would expect to get away with it. Yet people in movies seem to exhaust every other choice and arrive at that option with startling rapidness. They're always vigorously heterosexual characters, too, insisting the LAST thing they want to do is pose as a woman -- which I am skeptical of, because I think if you REALLY didn't want to wear women's clothes, you'd find another solution.
Anyway, I have no problem with "Juwanna Mann" using a plot device that is as old as time, and that was already used once this year in another movie ("Sorority Boys"). Any old idea can be made entertaining if it's done with the right flair and some witty dialogue.
"Juwanna Mann" has none of that. It's as if the filmmakers - first time director Jesse Vaughan and first-time writer Bradley Allenstein -- knew there was no hope of making an original movie and so they didn't even try.
There is dialogue like this, between Jamal and his agent (Kevin Pollak), as Jamal is forcing him to be a confederate in his scheme:
AGENT: This is blackmail!
JAMAL: No, it's black female.
AGENT: That's not funny.
And he's right. If it were delivered rapid-fire, you might get a chuckle by being faster than the audience. Here, though, before Jamal says, "No, it's black female," he adjusts his wig and slaps the desk, giving a two- or three-second delay -- plenty of time for the audience to predict what he's going to say, which makes his saying it profoundly unfunny.
What's also frustrating is that no attempt is made to make Jamal's disguise believable. I already mentioned how his lady name flies past everyone. But how did he get into the women's league, anyway? Don't they want to see a birth certificate, or a Social Security number, or something? Even ONE scene of Jamal setting up a bank account with the fake name, or going through some elaborate process to prove Juwanna's identity, would have been helpful. It wouldn't have been believable, but at least it would have shown that the filmmakers recognized the problem. As it is, I am disturbed to realize that after spending 90 minutes with this movie, I have found more flaws in it than the filmmakers did in the several months it took to write and produce it.
Jamal's secret is eventually uncovered, of course. It happens when his wig falls off and suddenly everyone recognizes him. This means if he had grown out his natural hair to the length of the wig, he never would have been caught. Stupid, stupid, stupid. "Juwanna Mann" makes Mewanna Barfalot.
Rated PG-13, a little profanity, some rear nudity,
Copyright © Eric D. Snider.
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