Dir. Jesse Vaughan, US, 2002, 91 mins
Cast: Miguel A. Nunez Jr., Vivica A. Fox, Kevin Pollak
This film has all the ingredients to be one of the worst releases of many a year. A dubious premise is given a predictable, cliché-filled treatment in a script that hints at, but fails to offer much in the way of, humour, romance and drama. An undistinguished cast is saddled with the unenviable task of bringing the story to life, and large portions of the final product look as though they have been edited with all the skill and subtlety of an apprentice butcher.
That Juwanna Mann is surprisingly bearable is largely due to the agreeably effective performance of its star, Miguel Nunez Jr. He plays Jamal Jefferies, a brilliant but badly behaved NBA star who is banned from playing after one particularly unfortunate display of naked bravado. Before you can say slam-dunk, Jamal's celebrity lifestyle has vanished. His girlfriend leaves him, he has no money and nobody wants to touch his massive talent and even more substantial ego. "Not even the Clippers want you", says Jamal's weary agent (an uninspired performance by Kevin Pollack), in an amusing reference to Los Angeles' 'other' team. In English football terms, picture Stan Collymore being rejected by, say, Halifax Town.
But then Jamal has an idea that will allow him to continue to ply his beloved trade while bringing him into very close contact with loads of gorgeous women. A wig here, a pair of plastic breasts there, and suddenly Jamal is the title character, the new star of the growing women's professional franchise. He soon befriends his new team's improbably beautiful captain (Vivica Fox) and, inspired by his teammates' method of celebrating a score, changes from selfish show-off to match-winning team player.
The conversion is worthy of the road to Damascus and typifies the join-the-dots feel of a script that opts not to waste much time worrying about logic. But Nunez's arrogant energy as Jamal (reminiscent of the young Eddie Murphy), in particular, is nicely pitched and his scenes with his straight-talking Aunt Ruby (a fine performance from Jennifer Lewis) are amusing. Overall, though, Juwanna Mann is eminently forgettable.