Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Phat Girlz

Illustration for article titled Phat Girlz

Crimes:

• Asserting that beauty comes in all shapes and sizes while playing up the comic grotesquerie of star Mo'Nique indulging her appetite at Fatassburger and a four-star hotel buffet

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• Apparently shooting the entire production on a 20-year-old camcorder

• Manufacturing a love interest by staging a convention of Hot Plus-Size-Appreciating Nigerian Doctors in Palm Springs

Defender: Writer-director Nnegest Likké

Tone of commentary: Earnest, good-spirited, and gracious. From the opening credits, Likké marvels that it's a miracle to see her name up there and talks about the project as a dream come true. She frequently points out her technical deficiencies and mistakes, but modestly hopes the film's positive message about body image will shine through the errors. Too bad it doesn't.

What went wrong: The original $10 million budget was slashed to $2.5, prompting major cuts in the screenplay. The production ran out of money halfway through filming and didn't continue until six months later, which caused several continuity errors. Likké originally scripted a raunchier, R-rated comedy, but had to cut it down to PG-13, which meant excising some important thong shots. One crucial scene was re-shot five different times, at varied hours of the day and night, and with new outfits for the cast members. Likké wishes for a sixth take.

Comments on the cast: Likké spreads the praise around to everyone from her abrasive star Mo'Nique ("a comedic genius and a dramatic genius") to actors who pop in for a line or two to the Palm Springs extras who shot their scenes at 4 a.m. Even a producer who filled in at a disco scene gets praised for dancing and ordering a drink convincingly.

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Inevitable dash of pretension: When Mo'Nique and her rail-thin cousin Joyful Drake reconcile with a hug, Likké says, "This is where skinny girl and fat girl become one. Symbolically."

Commentary in a nutshell: "Phat Girlz is not a romantic comedy, but a comedy with a love story in it."

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