Woo

Nashville Scene

DIRECTED BY: Daisy von Scherler Mayer

REVIEWED: 05-18-98

The new comedy Woo is being marketed as a zany urban comedy in the same vein as Booty Call, Sprung, and How to Be a Player, and unfortunately it is just that. For cinema buffs, though, Woo is more interesting as the second feature by Daisy v.S. Mayer, whose previous film Party Girl was an unexpected delight and a career-launching showcase for star Parker Posey. This new picture, written by David C. Johnson, stars the appealing Jada Pinkett Smith, who shines in her spotlight as brightly as Posey did in hers. If only Smith's supporting cast were as, well, supportive.

Woo follows a stuffy paralegal (Tommy Davidson) as he navigates past his obnoxious buddies, his mooching ex-girlfriend, and a host of other indignities during a surprise blind date with a wild young woman named Woo (Smith). The screenplay's lack of invention is such that Johnson doesn't even have a clever way to get Davidson and Smith together. His idea of a "meet cute" is to have one of Davidson's friends call him up and say, "Can you get my girlfriend's cousin out of my hair tonight?" Talk about phoned-in plots.

As for the trio of pals who pop up every 15 minutes or so to make fun of Davidson's nerdiness and Smith's craziness, well, for three supposedly successful black professionals, they spend a surprising amount of time hanging out on corners hooting stupidly at women. I'd have been offended by the stereotyping if the majority African American audience hadn't laughed uproariously at every bit of shuck and jive.

The most disappointing thing about Woo, though, is the choice of Davidson both as costar and as the person from whose perspective the story is told. Davidson does nothing original with the role of an uptight young man looking for love; he plays the cliché every time--acting snippy, stumbling around, doing broad double takes. He has no presence and he's not funny. Why would we root for someone as charming as Smith to end up with such a zero? There's a small role in the film for the genuinely funny comedian Dave Chappelle, who plays a chicken-obsessed Romeo. Had the romance been between Chappelle and Smith, the film would've perked up considerably (and Johnson's strict adherence to black romantic-comedy formulas would be even more inappropriate).

It's hard to say what drew Mayer to this material, except that the story shares some themes with her first feature--both films are about likable social butterflies who have trouble getting close to men. And Jada Pinkett Smith has all the charisma that Davidson lacks; she's cute, smart, and infectiously high-spirited, and the way she picks apart Davidson's chums almost redeems their presence in the film. Unfortunately, we really only get to see her when Davidson's around. We know nothing about her job, her friends, her family, or her worldview. For a film called Woo, there's criminally little Woo to be had.

--Noel Murray

Capsule Reviews
Woo
Woo
Woo

Other Films by Daisy von Scherler Mayer
Madeline

Film Vault Suggested Links
Ten Things I Hate About You
Lost and Found
Grumpier Old Men

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