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'Woo' Loaded With Attitude, Vulgarity

Movie Review

May 08, 1998|JOHN ANDERSON | FOR THE TIMES

"Does it always have to be about sex?" asks Woo (Jada Pinkett Smith), the alternately sultry, vulgar, impish and marginally psychotic club kid/feminist agitator who's shrink-wrapped into a sequined halter top and pants that are stretched thinner than your patience. In a movie in which people have proper names for their private parts, this seems an odd question.

A better question: Why can't Pinkett Smith ("The Nutty Professor," "Scream 2")--as attractive and effervescent a screen presence as is currently being misused by Hollywood--find something better to do than play the title role of "Woo," a painfully graceless comedy that reworks "After Midnight," "Blind Date" and "Booty Call" into something monstrous and untoward? Or, for that matter, Tommy Davidson, who plays Woo's besieged blind date, a guy whose manhood is treated the way a baby treats a diaper?

Did we mention boring? The director is Daisy von Scherler Mayer of the remotely amusing, Parker Posey-powered "Party Girl," who is identified here as Daisy v.S. Mayer, perhaps so she can have some escape route on her resume from this more current exercise in pretentiousness, sexism, vulgarity and pandering. In making the film, she seems to have had some communication with the transmigrated souls of Luis Bunuel and Moe Howard. But not enough.

Woo, an all-purpose celebutante-about-town with oceans of attitude, no visible means of support and a wardrobe one size too small, can figure out most things--except the fact that her cousin Claudette (Paula Jai Parker) and Claudette's boyfriend, Lenny (Dave Chappelle), would like some time alone. Lenny, desperate, calls up his hapless, dateless buddy Tim (Davidson) to take Woo off their hands. Given that Woo is the finest, foxiest . . . I mean, when you see Woo, you say, "WOOOOO!" In other words, companionship shouldn't be a problem, but there you have it.

Anyway, to make a long story short, Woo's best buddy and transvestite astrologer, Celestrial (Girlina), has prophesied that Woo is going to meet the man of her dreams that very night and that he'll be a Virgo. She meets Tim. He's a Virgo. But it takes her the entire movie to figure out they're meant for each other. In this, "Woo" actually resembles Sophocles: If Oedipus had really believed the oracle, he should have known that whatever woman he met and married would be his mother. Likewise, Woo should have committed herself early. And we all would have been spared a great deal of anguish and agony and the urge to go blind.

* MPAA rating: R for sexual content and language. Times guidelines: sexuality, vulgarity, adult situations.

'Woo'

Jada Pinkett Smith: Woo

Tommy Davidson: Tim

Duane Martin: Frankie

Dave Chappelle: Lenny

Paula Jai Parker: Claudette

LL Cool J: Darryl

New Line Cinema presents a New Deal/Gotham Entertainment production. Director Daisy v.S. Mayer. Producers Beth Hubbard, Michael Hubbard. Executive producers John Singleton, Howard Hobson, Bradford W. Smith. Screenplay David C. Johnson. Cinematographer Jean Lepine. Editors Nicholas Eliopoulos, Janice Hampton. Costumes Michael Clancy. Music Michel Colombier. Production design Ina Mayhew. Running time: 1 hour, 25 minutes.

* In general release.

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