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Juwanna Mann

Ever since it first hit theaters, Juwanna Mann — the story of a cocky ex-basketball player (Miguel A. Nunez, Jr.) who resorts to dressing in drag to get back on the court — has been compared to Tootsie. Which raises an interesting question — can a movie sue for slander? Of course, most of the comparisons were less flattering than Juwanna's on-court hairdo, and it's no wonder: Director Jesse Vaughan's feature debut is a flat, predictable mess that has fewer laughs than the first 15 minutes of Dustin Hoffman and Sydney Pollack's cross-dressing classic. Juwanna's plot is completely by the gender-bending comedy numbers: Arrogant hotshot Jamal Jeffries (Nunez) gets kicked off the Charlotte Beat (and out of the league) after going on one ego-trip too many. Impoverished and somewhat chastened by his fall from grace, Jamal is desperate to keep playing and soon hits upon the idea of donning a wig and sports bra and trying out for the Banshees as Juwanna Mann. Apparently, something in the pancake makeup he piles on gets into his bloodstream, because "Juwanna" quickly turns into a tenderhearted team player with a particular soft spot for star player Michelle (Vivica A. Fox). By the time the movie comes to its foregone conclusion, Jamal learns a few things about honesty, trust, and loyalty — as well as the right way to treat a woman (lie to her, then make it up with flowers). Nunez is game — no pun intended — as the sassy, strong Juwanna, and he makes her a much more appealing character than Jamal, but all the enthusiasm in the world couldn't turn Bradley Allenstein's script into a slam-dunk. Juwanna Mann's few real laughs come courtesy of the supporting cast, particularly Kim Wayans as Banshees player Latisha and Tommy Davidson as Juwanna-lovin' rapper Puff Smokey Smoke. Unfortunately, one of Wayans' funniest bits was left on the editing room floor, though it's been rescued for Warner's features-heavy DVD. In addition to a clean anamorphic transfer (1.85:1) and crisp Dolby Digital 5.1 audio (English, French, and Spanish subtitles are also available), the disc offers three featurettes, a music video, the trailer, cast filmographies, nine deleted/extended scenes, and two full-length audio commentaries. The first, recorded by Nunez and Vaughan, is one of those enthusiastic, praise-heavy tracks that seems slightly pathetic when you know the film was almost universally panned. Meanwhile, Davidson goes solo for his commentary, which is an uneven mix of jokey comments, periods of silence, and a few pointed comments that verge on political incorrectness ("Pay no attention to the Aunt Jemima smock," he says of Jennifer Lewis's costume as Aunt Ruby). Snap-case.
—Betsy Bozdech

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