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Case Number 03967: Small Claims Court

Buy Woo at Amazon


New Line // 1998 // 80 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge Bill Gibron (Retired) // February 24th, 2004

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All Rise...

The Charge

It's Woo's world…We're just living in it. And may GOD have mercy on us all.

The Case

It's a typical metropolitan day in New York City, which means paralegal Tim is still desperate for a date. Seems the mild-mannered man is still smarting from the flim-flam suckering he experienced at the hands of his ex. The like-him-and-leave-him wench even managed to get him to co-sign a car loan, a deed that makes Tim the butt of his friends' in-jokes and cruel nicknames. When buddy Lamar calls up, offering him a blind date with a woman named Woo, Tim is skeptical. And he should be. Woo is a self-centered downtown diva with a head full of attitude and a body full of designer derring-do. As far as she's concerned, men should feel privileged to be in her presence. Perhaps that is why this holier than thou hoochie seeks the psychic matchmaking advice of a monstrous drag queen. Lucky for Woo, her horoscope says that this night she will meet the man of her dreams. But Tim turns out to be her worst straight-laced nightmare. Thus commences a nightlong battle of the sexes, with Woo trying to loosen up the stuffed shirt and Tim trying to tame this female firestorm. It's not long before restaurants are destroyed, cars are stolen, punches are thrown, and Tim is mugged. Still, he seems drawn to this wild child. And Woo, always haughty and selfish, may just be falling for him. Will the square smooth off some of his awkward edges, or will it be Woo who learns that being ballsy and brash is what's keeping her single?

Like the uninvited guest that won't go away no matter how hard you hint, Woo is a cinematic stenchfest that lingers far too long for its incredibly short running time. Barely making it to 80 minutes (the movie has to actually add a line or two of dialogue over the start at the credits to achieve the magic eight-o) this unfunny, upwardly immobile urban comedy doesn't have the first clue on how to be intelligent, witty, or engaging. From the basic premise to the piss-poor payoff, all Woo can ever be considered is an ersatz starring vehicle for the supposedly talented and must have been a hot commodity at one time Jada Pinkett (we'll get to the Smith in a minute). If you believe the set-up—and if you do there is lots of lovely Florida swampland that can be bought, cheap—Woo is a neighborhood gal, an around-the-way whirlwind who is every sista's friend, so well connected she makes the Mafia look like loners and represents the dictionary definition of lust to all men. Like Nigella Lawson, she's everything to everyone. But as written by one note scribbler David C. Johnson (who never met a cliché he couldn't include) and personified by the bewildering Ms. Smith (you'd think someone like Wild Wild Will would use his clout and wealth to buy up his trophy wife's past motion picture transgressions—guess he has his own to worry about), Woo is a walking disaster area of anti-social behaviors and interpersonal land mines. We are supposed to find her reactionary rudeness and manipulative sex sauntering empowering and refreshing. But all that really happens is that we grow aggravated and desperate. If there was ever a movie that indirectly champions acquaintance abuse, Woo is it.

The real problem here is that none of what happens is remotely believable. Woo flaunts impossibility for the sake of a stupid joke and stretches credibility and calls it character development. As the meek milquetoast Tim who so readily succumbs to Woo's sordid siren song, Tommy Davidson has the thankless task of making us understand how someone with his supposed intelligence and taste finds this flighty female fetching. He is more angry at her than enthralled, and when he does make his third-act amorous mood swing, it's so shocking and sudden that you feel a sharp jolt of narrative whiplash cross your consciousness. Pinkett Fresh Prince is not much better, playing self-possessed as if she accidentally thought she was making the hip-hop Exorcist. Her sole thespian gesture is to toss her pageboy hairdo and look flustered, not much to base a performance on. Combine this with a set of cartoon ancillary characters (Dave Chappelle plays Lamar, a man so obsessed with fried chicken—how racially sensitive—that he has his woman pretend to be a pullet when they have sex) and some derogatory digs at homosexuals (all the drag stuff is played for lispy laughs), and Woo becomes a movie that's more mean-spirited than merry. Not even cameo inclusions of the always smooth LL Cool J and Billy Dee Williams can save this stupidity. It's hard to believe that, only six years ago, this kind of African-American atrophy passed for viable cinematic diversity. Nothing like having your race further oppressed and tortured—except this time it's not at the hands of some moustache twisting slave master: it's at the mangled methods of Hollywood formulism.

As part of their black comedy cavalcade (which includes such other jiggy gems as Who's Da Man and Hangin' With the Homeboys), New Line presents the DVD of Woo in a basic, barebones package. The only added extras here are a chance to view the film in either uninvolving 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen (not that director Daisy v.S. Mayer does much with her camera save for the standard point and pray) or should have been a sitcom replicating full screen. Oh, and there are a few trailers tossed in to show you what other celebrations of celluloid you are missing. One thing is for certain: at least two of them are better than the woeful Woo. This is a movie that suffers from the "not with your genitals" ideal of female companionship since it turns its title character into one of the biggest witches this side of Salem. While she may think she is "all that," and the rest of her 'hood finds her finer than the finest paramount pyramid, the reality is that Woo is one woman who needs a major attitude adjustment and a one way trip back down to terra firma pronto. Having a good sense of self and high esteem is one thing. Treating people like pawns and playthings in your own private emotional board game is cruel and callous. Woo may be tight and out of sight, but she and her film are not worth the effort.

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Scales of Justice

Judgment: 46

Perp Profile

Studio: New Line
Video Formats:
• 1.85:1 Anamorphic
• Full Frame
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
• English
Running Time: 80 Minutes
Release Year: 1998
MPAA Rating: Rated R
• Bad
• Comedy

Distinguishing Marks

• Trailers


• IMDb

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