By Alice King
Updated February 13, 2001 at 05:00 AM EST
Woman on Top: Phil Bray

There’s quirky charming and there’s quirky annoying. Quirky annoying is when a character in a movie called Woman on Top has a malady that requires her to be on top in bed, leading her emasculated hubby to infidelity (and to a really unsubtle title). It’s when colorful natives make colorful offerings to goddesses who cause thunder and lightning when they’re crossed. It’s painting San Francisco as a kook filled paradise bursting with lovable transvestites who have nothing better to do than sort out other people’s romantic lives. In short, it’s almost everything about this food equals passion flick that strains so hard to be charming it may well have pulled something.

Granted, Penélope Cruz is adorable as Isabella, the titular chef who escapes her philandering husband and makes it big as a TV cooking show host. And ”Oz”’s Harold Perrineau Jr. swishes with the best of them as the aforementioned trannie. But burdened by too much cutesy magical realism and Isabella’s not so compelling dilemma (go back to her suave but too macho husband, or go for her show’s nice guy producer?), ”Woman” falls as flat as the film’s requisite bad karma soufflé.