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One for all the women who don't look like Paris

April 10, 2006|John Anderson | Special to Newsday

Comedian Chris Rock does a hilarious routine about fat black women that may be rude but is all about 'tude: As cliched as it sounds, you really are as pretty as you feel.

And that's the message of "Phat Girlz," Nnegest Likke's first feature and a rather roughed-out manifesto about the tyranny of body image, cultural aesthetics and even biology. "You will never be a Size 5," hunky Nigerian doctor Tunde (Jimmy Jean-Louise) tells the generously proportioned and aptly named Jazmin Biltmore (Mo'Nique).

"Phat Girlz" is sloppily shot, grainy, a three-act movie with four acts and just a bit racist (does every white woman have to be a shrew?). At the same time, the protagonists are angry victims of their culture: Jazmin and her ample pal Stacey (Kendra C. Johnson) work in a department store where the Paris Hilton Effect is in full virulent rage, and only when they travel to Palm Springs and meet the Nigerian doctors of their dreams are they appreciated for who and what they really are. (In Nigeria, it seems, they like their women PHAT -- pretty, hot and thick.) As a result, Jazmin, one might say, has got it goin' on.

Mo'Nique and Johnson are endearing; their skinny pal Mia (Joyful Drake) is a cartoon. But Likke should be applauded for tackling a subject that's bristling with sociopolitical thorns and that raises some provocative questions, particularly about what we find attractive in other people and why.


`Phat Girlz'

MPAA rating: PG-13 for sexual content and language, including some crude sexual references.

A Fox Searchlight Pictures release. Director Nnegest Likke. Producer Bobby Newmyer, Stephen J. Wolfe. Directors of photography Dean Lent, John Njaga Demps. Editor Zack Arnold.

Running time: 1 hour, 39 minutes.

In general release.

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