Lee has a bachelor's in English Lit. She loves analyzing fiction and obsessing over books, film, and television.
Juwanna Mann is a 2002 comedy film about an arrogant basketball player who gets kicked off his team and disguises himself as a woman in order to join women's basketball instead.
I hadn't seen this movie for years when I decided to watch it again recently. I laughed so hard. I don't get why people hate this film and love to mock it. I think it's hilarious. Not only that, I also find the story to be heartwarming: an arrogant and self-centered man learns the value of teamwork and learns to respect women after playing with them and coming to realize that -- epiphany! -- women are people!
When the film starts, Jamal Jefferies (Miguel A. Núñez Jr.) is an arrogant ball hog whose ego is ruining his team's reputation. When he eventually goes too far, his entire world comes crashing down around him. He embarrasses himself by stripping naked on television and flashing the booing crowd, which in turn leads him to get kicked off his team and also be shunned by pretty much every basketball team in the country.
Unable to earn money, Jamal loses his house, cars, and furniture, and his girlfriend, Tina Parker (Lil Kim), leaves him in a hilarious scene:
Jamal: You can't leave me! What about all the good lovin you was gettin' up in here?
Tina: I packed it. The batteries too!
Jamal becomes desperate enough to pose as a woman -- "Juwanna Mann" -- and tricks his agent into signing him with a women's basketball team, the Charlotte Banshees.
The picture above is a hilarious scene where Jamal and his agent (Kevin Pollak) are fighting at the fax machine. Loren is trying to stop the fax going through and Jamal is blocking with his butt. Loren's secretary walks in and thinks they are having sex.
I about died laughing.
Posing as a woman meant that Jamal (almost immediately) got a taste of what it was like to be a woman -- not that he could ever really know. He didn't have to walk around with the same fear a woman does. Because he was still a man, it was easier for him to fight off the relentless sexual harassment of Puff Smokey Smoke (Tom Davidson), an annoying little man who won't stop trying to get into his pats.
Yes, Jamal doesn't magically become a woman by putting on a dress. How dare I acknowledge biological reality.
In one hilarious scene, Puff insists on talking loudly about how attractive he finds "Juwanna," who is sitting nearby. This is degrading to Jamal, who slides a towel rack between them so he doesn't have to see the guy who's loudly talking about his body in a sexual manner.
I laughed so hard when Puff said, "Oh, she gonna block me out." in response to Jamal's irritation and disgust.
Puff sincerely seems to be an oblivious clown who doesn't mean any real harm. But his insistence on continuously crossing "Juwanna's" boundaries is very harmful, and by the time he's been kneed in the nuts by Jamal, the audience probably shouldn't feel too badly about laughing at him.
Aside from how delightful it was watching Jamal -- a misogynistic man who thinks women's basketball is a "joke" -- get a taste of a woman's world, I thought it was heartwarming to watch him fall in love with Michelle (Vivica Fox).
Michelle is the captain of the team, and when she first meets "Juwanna," the two of them butt heads. They are both arrogant ball hogs, but "Juwanna" is arrogant to the extreme, and Michelle can't handle it in the beginning.
After a one-on-one ball session, they become friends, and this is the point where Jamal starts to fall in love with Michelle. Because he has to play basketball with her, for the first time in his life, he is forced to connect with a woman as a human being -- rather than treating her as a trophy, servant, or sex object the way he did Tina.
Michelle and "Juwanna" bond over basketball and go on fun outings, and through spending time together, they become closer. Because Michelle is straight, however, she sees "Juwanna" as nothing more than a really good friend.
Jamal, meanwhile, is falling in love with Michelle. When Michelle walks in on her boyfriend, Romeo (Ginuwine), cheating on her, she calls Jamal in tears. Jamal then goes to Romeo's house and punches him out.
Jamal later has a talk with Michelle and helps her to realize that she is worth so much more and deserves so much more. Jamal can see this now because he loves her.
By the end of the film, Jamal is completely reformed. After his wig falls off during a game, he is forced to face the consequences. Michelle and the rest of the Charlotte Banshees appear at the commission hearing, having decided to forgive Jamal, who actually became a better person because of their friendship.
Jamal's mistakes are forgiven and he is welcomed back to the UBA (a fictional version of the NBA), now a man who can respect women and see them as equals, while also valuing his male teammates.
It's a hilarious movie with a heartwarming and valuable lesson. I'll never quite understand why it's hated, but then, my taste in movies probably isn't that great.
© 2019 Lee