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Tuesday, 12 February 2019

Retro Review: Woo (1998)

Cast: Jada-Pinkett Smith, Tommy Davidson, Dave Chappelle, Paula Jai Parker, L.L Cool J, Duane Martin-Campbell
Genre: Romantic Comedy
U.S Box Office Gross: over $8 million 

Plot: Gorgeous and extravert Woo meets an insecure and straight-laced law clerk, Tim at a blind date


With co-production by John Singleton of Boyz N Da Hood fame, Woo is a romantic comedy, whereby the comedy element is a hit-and-miss affair, but with mostly misses; the biggest culprit being the romance doesn't come through. Jada Pinkett-Smith is one of the number of Black actresses who can easily transition into rom-com fare: it's a shame, however, that her character, Woo lacks emotional traits in a so-called rom-com such as Woo. Dubbed as one of the worst movies ever made (& one that bombed so badly on its initial release in the U.S) and contrary to critics, Woo, on my first viewing, isn't completely bad and unwatchable - but that is mostly due to Jada Pinkett, whose screen presence makes the film watchable. Had it not been for her and the manner of her turn, Woo would have been even less satisfying.

A romance eventually develops between a cold, brazen woman in Woo, the self-titled character and a so-called nice guy & repressed clerk in Tim who lacks confidence. When Woo meets a transgender physic friend who tells her that she will meet the eventual man of her dreams, Woo becomes sceptical of it all. Pinkett-Smith's Woo is attractive, but personality-wise is strong -yet passive-aggressive, controlling and comes across as if her opinion matters most than anyone else's. After a night out with Woo, Tim ends up getting assaulted and takes matters into his own hands. Davidson as Tim becomes a tad likeable as the story wears on and for once, he plays it straight. He doesn't, however, convince entirely as the guy who tries to get the girl and is perhaps and arguably more so suited to playing the goofy, funny sidekick or wacky character in a comedy (as seen in In Living Color) or rom-com (Juwanna Mann).

Playing out in a similar fashion to 1987's Blind Date with Kim Basinger and Bruce Willis, it is a story of two opposites who end up falling in love: a trope that has been reused, rehashed and retooled countless times, yet it is far from an outright trash fest it has been touted. Although, being a rom-com, it lacks charm due to the lack of sexual tension between Tommy Davidson and Jada-Pinkett that towards the end when they get together, it feels unearned. Director Daisy Mayer fails to explore the relationship between Tim and Woo and the one thing that they might have in common with each other that truly made me understand why they'd be a perfect fit as lovers and the frequent cursing with the use of B and N-words, ruined it slightly also. Instead, it feels too much like a cancelled sitcom episode with jokes that fall flat and forgettable characters. Additionally, Tim's friends are increasingly raucous, obnoxious and have no redeemable qualities, whilst there is a needless subplot involving Dave Chappelle's Lennie trying to get laid with his wife.

Some of the comedy appears to be crude, as opposed to endearing, although the scene at a drag club with the 3 guys unknownst to them that they are men, was a little amusing.

Final Verdict:

The film has some charismatic performers in Jada Pinkett, Tommy Davidson, Dwayne Campbell, Dave Chappelle that to see that the material fails to utilise their talents is such a waste, indeed.


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