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Phat Girlz

Fox // PG-13 // April 7, 2006
List Price: Unknown [Buy now and save at Allposters]

Review by Brian Orndorf | posted April 7, 2006 | E-mail the Author
Plus-sized Jazmin (Mo'Nique) is tired off all the "skinny bitches" that surround her on the street, at her department store job, and even in the home she shares with her cousin (Joyful Drake). Winning a diet pill sweepstakes, Jazmin and her friend (Kendra Johnson) take off to Palm Springs for a long weekend of hiding their bodies and hitting up the buffets. Poolside, they meet Tunde (Jimmy Jean-Louise), a Nigerian doctor attending a convention. Tunde is instantly smitten with Jazmin, and their romance brings out the joy in her heart, along with her insecure feelings about her weight.

The messages that "Phat Girlz" is trying to put out into the world are commendable. This is a film about body acceptance, and with every starlet working today apparently in a secret contest to see how rail thin they can be, it's a refreshing to watch a film take on female sizing and the obsession with tiny waistlines. But that doesn't necessarily make for an inspirational night at the movies.

Because "Girlz" is positioned at a specific demographic, it has no true appearance of actual filmmaking. "Girlz" is simply preaching to choir, fashioning a random set of scenes, some fundamental dramatic highs and lows, and throwing on about ten happy endings to make sure the audience goes out on a high. Made on the cheap (shot with low-grade DV cameras), and unfortunately looking like it too, the picture is a mess of ideas looking for some type of dramatic form. First time writer/director Nnegest Likke has her heart in the right place, but the intensity of her inexperience blinds every scene.

Mo'Nique is the star of the film in every meaning of the word, and along with Likke, she certainly has a lot to say on the subject of body issues. Mo'Nique is a hurricane of a performer, and she can be a scream when wound up tightly and set loose on her surroundings. Likke makes plenty of room for the actress to throw down some jokes, even stopping the film at one point to highlight a game of snaps between Jazmin and a disrespectful fast food clerk (two guesses who wins). "Girlz" ultimately asks Mo'Nique to try out her dramatic chops, which wouldn't be a problem if Likke had a clue how to capture the pain in Jazmin's heart. Mostly she has Mo'Nique crying her eyes out while shoving a camera inches away from her face. There's good work here by the imposing comedienne, but the limits of Likke's cinematic creativity continually thwart her performance.

"Girlz" is at its best when concentrating on the romance between Jazmin and Tunde. Their coupling is fresh and inspired, and warmly acted by the duo. It's also the one section of the film where the modest messages on "Lame Bryant" and the needless use of the word "bitch" are handled with some sense of grace, and not in a bad sitcom style like the rest of the film.

To reach more fairy tale heights, Likke ditches Tunde an hour in to focus on Jazmin's burgeoning plus size fashion line dreams. Here the film freefalls into preachy madness, woefully exacerbating the production value limitations. It's a shame too, because "Phat Girlz" has some important things to say and issues to address that deserved much better than to be simply played to the rafters.

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