Let's give the benefit of the doubt to those who probably thought there was a glimmer of potential in the basic concept of "Juwanna Mann." Must have made a sweet pitch to the suits: Hot-dogging, ball-hawking egocentric pro basketball star (Miguel A. Nunez Jr.) goes way too far in displaying (so to speak) his displeasure over being yanked from a game. His reputation, his goodies, his wife and his house fade away to the point that he has to move back home. He decides the best way to retrieve the lost glory is to dress up as a woman and play for the WNBA.
As both Jamal Jeffries and his alter ego, Juwanna Mann, Nunez is encouraged to play his role at the same level of over-the-top, in-your-face shrillness from the beginning until the very end. Worse, he expends this effort to play what is, in essence, someone's stereotypical idea of an egomaniacal basketball star instead of someone with complexes that are even remotely recognizable in real life.
Vivica A. Fox, whose comedic graces are still waiting for the right vehicle, gets to only glower and twinkle as the captain of the women's team--and Jamal-Juwanna's romantic interest. (The filmmakers play a game of chicken with the possibilities here. In the end, no one wins.)
The most interesting performances are, in hoop-speak, at the movie's perimeter. One wanted much more of Kim Wayans as Juwanna's not-so-ambiguously gay teammate. And it's a kick to watch Tommy Davidson satisfy his robust appetite for scenery--with jeweled choppers, no less--as a rap star named (Why, God, why?) Puff Smokey Smoke who's hot for Juwanna. Both these "In Living Color" vets need their own movies--and better people to make them. Clock's running.
MPAA rating: PG-13, for language and sex-related material.
Gene Seymour is a film critic for Newsday, a Tribune company.
Miguel A. Nunez Jr....Jamal Jeffries /
Vivica A. Fox...Michelle Langford
Kevin Pollak...Lorne Daniels
Tommy Davidson...Puff Smokey Smoke
James G. Robinson presents a Morgan Creek production, released by Warner Bros. Director Jesse Vaughan. Producers James G. Robinson, Steve Oedekerk, Bill Gerber. Executive producers Jonathan A. Zimbert, Ralph Singleton. Screenplay by Bradley Allenstein. Cinematographer Reynaldo Villalobos. Editor Seth Flaum. Costume designer Peggy Farrell. Music Wendy Melvoin & Lisa Coleman. Production designer Eve Cauley Turner. Art director Jennifer O'Kelly. Set decorator Marthe Pineau. Running time: 1 hour, 30 minutes.
In general release.