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Phat Girlz (2006)
Phat Girlz is a 2006 comedy film written and directed by Nnegest Likké and starring Mo'Nique. Jazmin Biltmore is a smart-mouthed, frustrated, plus-sized, aspiring fashion designer and department store employee who is obsessed with her weight and struggles to find love and acceptance in a world full of "hot-bodied babes". Jazmin has always been overweight, and compared to her skinny, popular cousin Mia. Jazmin wins a trip to Palm Springs for the weekend at a posh five-star resort. She and best friend Stacy find the first day at the spa embarrassing, as hotel robes don't fit, and the massage table is quite small for their curvaceous figures. They leave in frustration to join Mia, who has been ogling a Nigerian man swimming in the pool. He introduces himself as Tunde, but Jazmin is enraptured, too distracted to remember her own name. He and his friends find Jazmin and Stacy beautiful. However, they think Mia is so skinny that they wonder if she is sick. They invite the women out, with Tunde saying he has never seen such beautiful women in America. The three women go with the men to a traditional Nigerian party, where Mia is told she needs to eat more.
While you chew on that stunning display of gender politics, Phat Girlz continues to lob out broad slapstick humor - including an honest to God insult-off featuring fat jokes vs. you-so-ugly ones - and utterly one-note cliché characters. The plot, such as it is, finally gets going when Jazmin wins a trip to a posh Palm Springs resort and brings her two best friends, her skinny-bitch cousin Mia (Joyful Drake) and her fellow 'sexy succulent,' the reserved, schoolmarmish Stacy (Kendra C. Johnson). Jazmin catches the eye of Tunde (Jimmy Jean-Louis), a Nigerian doctor visiting for a medical conference, who likes his women 'thick.' Despite Jazmin's tendency to rudeness and blatant grilling of him, his intentions, and his beliefs, Tunde pursues her with a single-mindedness only found in romantic comedies.
While clearly made with the best of intentions, giving girl power and fairy tale romance to the plus sized woman, first time writer-director Nnegest Likké does not seem up to the task. Her lambasting of the hatin' that is directed at the heavy based on looks is seriously undermined by being one of the most superficial films I've ever seen. Apparently, it is just fine, even funny or romantic, to judge someone entirely on looks - as Tunde does to Jazmin, and vice versa - as long as the verdict is favorable. And jokes made at the expense of looks are totally acceptable, as long as they are aimed at the smug, skinny Mia, who is deemed and undesirable, emaciated toothpick by Tunde and his pals.
There are some nominal sweet moments - Stacy's discovery of her own beauty and subsequent emerging from her self-imposed exile in sweater sets and dowdy glasses, thanks to some raucous sex with one of the Nigerian doctors, is actually a very nice secondary story - and the comedy, though aggressive and extremely limited in subject, is still present, and even occasionally amusing. And because this is a blatant showcase for Mo'Nique, the film is a veritable parade of hairstyles, elaborate eye makeup and fun clothes. Lots and lots of clothes.
Unfortunately, though, Phat Girlz plays like amateur hour. Any cleverness to the writing is overshadowed by the cheap filmmaking that looks more suited to a shoestring, undistributed indie or a bit of fluff from the Lifetime Network. And despite a fairly lean runtime of just over an hour and half, it drags, significantly, probably because only the middle portion has a balance between comedy, character, and plot. The opening is just a protracted fat joke rebuttal, and the end veers sharply into adolescent wish fulfillment territory, complete with pink curly script scrawled across the screen to help narrate. All of the good intentions and devotion to a message cannot compensate for unimpressive filmmaking.
Part of me wants to believe that I am missing something in Phat Girlz, that I am outside the target audience or that I am inadvertently buying into some 'thin is the only true beauty' conspiracy, but it's a no go. It's just a bad movie.
The DVD includes a commentary track, deleted scenes, gag reel, and an extended version of the film that, no doubt, is phar phatter than the theatrical version of the philm.
Did you hear the one about yo momma? Oh you did?