The old saying that there are only seven plots in Hollywood seems to be proven true yet again with the release of Warner Brothers’ cross-dressing comedy, Juwanna Mann.
The story of a man dressing up like a woman to get something he wants is a plot as overused as the odd-couple action-comedy, and one wonders why people continue to flock to the theaters to see the same old story told time and time again. Nevertheless, for what it’s worth, Juwanna Mann isn’t nearly as dumb as its trailers make it look — although that doesn’t mean that it’s funny, either.
What It Feels Like For a Girl
PG-13 for language, sex-related material
Juwanna Mann tells the story of Jamal Jeffries (Miguel A. Nunez, Jr.), the NBA’s biggest star — that is, until he gets suspended from the league. Sick of his wild and crazy behavior on and off the court, the same people that made Jamal a star quickly turn their backs on him, leaving him bankrupt and forced to move back home with his Aunt Ruby (Jennifer Lewis).
Determined to get back his millions (as well as get back on the court), Jamal decides that his only way back into the game is to play for the WNBA. Under the name Juwanna Mann, Jamal soon becomes the league’s most talked about new player, wowing both his teammates and their fans with his skills. However, as Juwanna leads her teammates to the championship, the NBA slowly begins to realize that they need their most valuable player back. Now, it’s up to Jamal to decide between the life he led and the life he lives and decide what’s more important — the millions of dollars he made as Jamal Jeffries, or the friendship and respect he’s earned as Juwanna Mann.
A Star is Born
Similar to Big Momma’s House, Mrs. Doubtfire and Tootsie before it, Juwanna Mann could easily be a success or failure based on its leading man alone. Luckily, Nunez was born for the dual roles of Jamal and Juwanna. Nunez (Life, Scooby-Doo) takes on his first starring role with ease, delivering a cross-dressing performance worthy of Robin Williams or Dustin Hoffman. The young actor plays both the egotistical playboy and the smart-mouthed country girl splendidly, and audiences should have no trouble both loving and loathing his characters.
While few actors manage to find a starring role that showcases their true acting abilities, Nunez should be able to step away from the bit parts he’s been getting and into more leading/supporting roles thanks to his memorable performance.
You’ve Seen This Film Before
No matter how wonderful a performance Nunez delivers though, the fact remains that Juwanna Mann is one of those comedies that assumes viewers aren’t sick of the same old jokes and clichés. If you are a moviegoer that still finds fake boobies flopping around, a man dressed like a woman walking into the men’s restroom, or a man dressed like a woman getting hit on by (who else?) a man, then Juwanna Mann will definitely keep you in stitches. Furthermore, if you can excuse the fact that you’ll know the entire story of Juwanna Mann before even seeing the movie, then you’ll enjoy the film even more. But if you are like most moviegoers who go to a comedy expecting to laugh and be entertained by something that’s slightly new and original, Juwanna Mann is not the film for you.
That said, the script to Juwanna Mann (written by Bradley Allenstein) does manage to succeed on one level by providing the heart it promises at the center of its story. Unlike numerous other movies where a character undergoes a life-changing experience (and becomes a better person because of it by the film’s end), Jamal’s transformation from the money-hungry womanizer to the sensitive team player is actually believable. However, this again is made possible more by Nunez’s outstanding performance than the script, which resorts to using the same old clichés — like seeing the woman he’s falling for (Vivica A. Fox) dating a two-timing playboy that mirrors his old self.
When all is said and done, Juwanna Mann is your typical formulaic comedy that has everything viewers would expect from it — except the laughs. For when you’ve seen a story as often as this one, the stereotypical gender jokes just don’t cut it, and unfortunately director Jesse Vaughan doesn’t even try to add anything new to the genre.
Nevertheless, what the film may lack in the laughter department it makes up for with its heart, and that — alongside a star-turning performance by Nunez — will definitely keep viewers entertained for much longer than its trailers let on.