March 13, 2006

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Phat Girlz (PG-13)
reviewed by Amy Diaz

Mo’Nique turns the laments of Lane Bryant shoppers into a cutesy fairy tale in the uneven and vaguely amateurish Phat Girlz.

Jazmin Biltmore (Mo’Nique) loves high fashion but finds that the look she’s after is usually only available in a slinky size 2, not the plus sizes she’d need for her frame. At the department store where she works, the plus sizes are nothing but frumpy tents, giving Jazmin the idea to start her own clothing line. Though she has the sketches and the fashion sense, she doesn’t have the start-up capital and can’t get any help from her employer. Down in the dumps about her career, her body image and her nonexistent love life, she and her friends head to a Palm Springs resort (thanks to a sweepstakes prize that is the first of several clumsy contrivances).

While lounging at the pool and feeling sorry for her chubby, broke, single self, Jazmin sees the very fit Nigerian doctor Tunde (Jimmy Jean-Louis). Though Jazmin’s skinny cousin Mia (Joyful Drake) makes the play for this dreamy underwear model-esque man, it’s Jazmin that Tunde has the hots for as Nigerians apparently dig a girl with much junk in their large trunks. A predictable amount of I’m-afraid-to-let-you-love-me hemming and you-must-first-love-yourself hawing keeps our couple from true bliss for the requisite amount of time but the experience does give Jazmin the confidence she needs to talk up her Thick Madam line of fashionable clothes.

Like Jazmin’s sketches, Phat Girlz is a rough outline of a glitzy product built for the double-digit-sized girl. Like Jazmin’s sketches, a lot of work is still needed to turn the vague idea into a slick, high-quality product. The digital filming gives the film a cheap, grainy look not helped by the chintzy locations. The actors need a refresher course in subtlety. The dialogue needs several passes by an editor not afraid of the red pen and someone with a flair for jokes that don’t start with “you so ugly.” The story needs serious smoothing by someone who has at least heard the word “segue.” And perhaps the team of surgeons that will perform the delicate work of saving the good and excising the bad in the narrative and dialogue can figure out how to amputate a few of the many endings without completely killing the movie.

As it stands, Phat Girls is a modestly good idea that needs a boatload of work on its execution. C-


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