May 22, 1998 at 04:00 AM EDT


Current Status
In Season
Dave Chappelle, Tommy Davidson, Jada Pinkett Smith
Romance, Comedy
We gave it a F

She can turn the world on with her smile, but Darlene ”Woo” Bates (Jada Pinkett Smith), the tediously madcap heroine of Woo (New Line), would rather exhaust the world with her pouts, shrieks, taunts, and mood swings. What’s she so het up about? Apparently, she’s so hot, no man is cool enough. So when the arrival of a blind date coincides with her transvestite psychic’s prediction that she’s about to meet the Virgo of her dreams, Woo descends on the poor, astrologically desirable cluck — a handsome but nerdy legal assistant (Booty Call’s Tommy Davidson) — with all the sashaying, head-tossing, eye-flashing mixed messages in her arsenal. She then drags her quarry through a night of degradation (including setting fire to a restaurant, traditionally frowned-upon dating behavior) we’re meant to believe constitutes a sexy, funny romp, but which is actually an angry, self-loathing rampage. Boring, too.

This unsexy, unfunny mess — a good-time girl in Martin Lawrence territory — spawns from weird lineage: Woo has been directed by Daisy V.S. Mayer, who did such fresh work with Parker Posey in the 1995 indie darling Party Girl, and produced by Beth and Michael Hubbard, the husband-and-wife team behind Lawrence’s 1994 concert film You So Crazy. But here Mayer is in an unfamiliar neighborhood, presiding over a broad African-American sex comedy (guest stars include LL Cool J, Dave Chappelle, and Billy Dee Williams has a cameo) that demeans every character who crosses the screen. (One of many low points: During foreplay a guy makes his girl imitate a chicken and peck crumbs off his chest.)

If Pinkett Smith escapes relatively untarnished it’s only because the likable costar of Scream 2 and The Nutty Professor, poured into tiny booty-shaker costumes and wearing a bobbed wig, so clearly has been given as few clues to Woo‘s motivations as the audience has. News for the clueless: There are plenty of nice drugs on the market now that can stave off Woo‘s kind of behavior. F

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