Juwanna Mann

2001, Movie, PG-13, 88 mins

Review

JUWANNA MANN
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A shameless rip-off of 1982 cross-dressing comedy TOOTSIE, which starred Dustin Hoffman as an out-of-work actor who achieves overnight success as an actress. Writer Bradley Allenstein changes the milieu from TV soap opera to professional basketball, but otherwise he duplicates just about every character and plot point from the classic original; in fact, if his script resembled TOOTSIE's even a little bit more closely it wouldn't be derivative — it would be actionable. And now the good news: on its own staggeringly unoriginal terms, this gender-bending comedy is generally quite funny, in substantial part because of the brilliant title performance by Miguel A. Nunez, Jr., who, incidentally, looks much better in a dress than Hoffman ever did. The set-up, for those unfamiliar with the earlier film, is classic farce. Jamal Jeffries (Nunez) is a rich NBA star with a bad attitude. As the picture begins, he's flashing a home team crowd over what he considers a bad call. League officials suspend him, and after his money runs out and he's reduced to living with his Aunt Ruby (Jennifer Lewis), Jeffries has a brainstorm. He'll fit himself out with a padded bra and a wig, change his name to Juwanna Mann (as in "d'youwanna man" get it?) and, with the help of his agent (Kevin Pollak, in the Sydney Pollack role), audition for a women's team, the Charlotte Banshees. Soon he's a bigger star as a woman than he was as a man, and all sorts of complications ensue — including falling in love with Michelle Langford (Vivica A. Fox), the team's best looking player — before he learns the meaning of team work and gets in touch with his sensitive side. To reiterate, you've probably seen all this before, but the acting carries it. Comic Tommy Davidson, in particular, is hilarious as gangsta rapper Puff Smokey Smoke, who falls for Juwanna and then, in a twist lifted directly from the queen of all drag farces, 1959's SOME LIKE IT HOT, decides he still loves her after she's exposed as Jamal. After all, nobody's perfect. leave a comment --Steve Simels

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