Juwanna Mann

If nothing else, programs like Behind The Music, E! True Hollywood Story, and the more recent, sports-oriented Beyond The Glory have contributed a new type of character to the public consciousness: the redemption-seeking, has-been celebrity. Blame them for Juwanna Mann, although there's plenty of blame to go around. A basketball star so deluded by celebrity that he sees no harm in letting his sidekick stamp out autographs for his adoring fans, even at his own personal appearances, Miguel A. Nuñez Jr. looks to be headed for a comeuppance at the outset of Juwanna Mann. He finds it when his decision to respond to an ejection by stripping off his clothes earns him an expulsion from the league, the mass exodus of his army of hangers-on, and the loss of his Hammer-style pleasure palace. A prime candidate for the fallen-star redemption-through-suffering story arc, Nuñez opts out of his personal downturn via the only shortcut available to him through the logic of unimpressive movie comedies: donning drag and playing in the women's league, under the alias of the movie's telltale title. Adopting an accent that seems one part country, one part failed attempt at an Irish brogue, Nuñez (a poor substitute for Orlando Jones, if such a phenomenon can be imagined) figures that his time in the Charlotte Banshees should be a cakewalk. He doesn't suspect that his new teammates' fierce devotion to teamwork, powerful command of fundamentals, and easy emotional bonding will force him to rethink some of his basic views on basketball and life. Familiar as that sounds, a basketball Tootsie this isn't. Juwanna Mann relies on the most time-tested basic moves of farce for laughs that just don't come. Playing a gold-capped rapper named Puff Smokey Smoke, Tommy Davidson unwittingly falls in love with the none-too-feminine-looking Nuñez. As a dress-clad Nuñez and agent Kevin Pollak wrestle over a contract, Pollak's secretary walks in just in time to get exactly the wrong impression. Nuñez realizes he's a better match for teammate Vivica A. Fox than womanizing soul man Ginuwine, but his disguise makes his instincts impossible to act upon. On it goes, through one familiar scenario after another, with the only real humor emerging from the appearance of so many transparent contrivances in such close proximity. There's a tradition of great cross-dressing comedies, stretching from before Shakespeare through Tootsie and beyond. Juwanna Mann steers well clear of it.

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