Movie review, 'Juwanna Mann'

EntertainmentMoviesGenresSexKim WayansNBA

There must be a cinematic clock hidden away in Hollywood that chimes whenever it's time to make a bad genre movie.

Bong! Time to make another talking-horse film!

Bong! A low-budget teen slasher flick!

Bong! A cross-dressing comedy!

In this case, the bell tolls for "Juwanna Mann," which begins with a bad-pun title and doesn't get much better.

After bad-boy basketball star Jamal Jeffries (Miguel A. Nunez Jr.) shows more than his skills during a game, stripping to his birthday suit in protest of nothing in particular, he's bounced out of the NBA. When no one else will hire him, he tricks agent Lorne Daniels (Kevin Pollack) into signing him to the WNBA as Juwanna Mann, Jamal's alter ego in drag.

It's a Shakespearean conceit that no one recognizes Jamal in a woman's wig and floppy bra. So it's a moot point to argue the "reality" of an absurd convention fleshed out centuries ago in "Twelfth Night" and "As You Like It." Curiously, however, Jamal makes little initial attempt to make himself believable as a woman, from the fake Southern belle accent to his showboat habit of dunking -- a no-no in the WNBA.

A more egregious foul, however, comes from the sheer lack of comedy in this comedy. All the restroom jokes are exhausted early on, after a drunk Jamal uses a men's urinal in a dress. Everything else stems from derivative gags borrowed or recycled from a genre last explored in the terrible "Sorority Boys."

Role-switching morality comedies usually end one of two ways, either with the protagonists evolving after their experiences on the "other side" ("Freaky Friday," "Tootsie") or learning to be proud of who they are ("The New Guy," "Irma la Douce"). Either way, an audience usually ends up sympathizing with the embattled sap, even after the costume falls off.

Here is the only place "Juwanna Mann" veers from the formula, as Jamal remains unlikable throughout the film. When the smoke clears, he's a spoiled celebrity who loses nothing for behaving badly and shaming the WNBA.

It's tempting to call traveling on "Juwanna Mann," except it never goes anywhere. This film fouls out.

1 star
"Juwanna Mann"
Directed by Jesse Vaughan; screenplay by Bradley Allenstein; photographed by Reynaldo Villalobos; production design by Eve Cauley; produced by Bill Gerber, James G. Robinson. A Warner Bros. release; opens Friday, June 21. Running time: 1:31. MPAA rating: PG-13 (language and sex-related material).
Jamal/Juwanna -- Miguel A. Nunez Jr.
Michelle Langford -- Vivica A. Fox
Puff Smokey Smoke -- Tommy Davidson
Lorne Daniels -- Kevin Pollack Latisha Daniels -- Kim Wayans

Robert K. Elder is a Chicago Tribune Staff Writer.

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