In a film year defined by the tacitly approved pairing of male geezers with younger models, the central problem of How Stella Got Her Groove Back is that a 40-year-old divorcee (Angela Bassett) falls for a guy (Taye Diggs) who's half her age. This demographically targeted Terry McMillan adaptation is mainly idyllic: Not for nothing does the phrase "life is but a dream" get spoken twice. So before Bassett's Bay-area powerbroker decides she'd rather make furniture than money, she meets Diggs' "Mr. Jailbait Hip Hop" in a Jamaican paradise and triumphantly gets her groove back with a smooth sex scene shot through billowing curtains. It's all light as a tropical breeze but hardly uncool: For one thing, Whoopi Goldberg has her best role in years as Stella's best friend, who's introduced stuffing socks in the CK briefs of shop-window mannequins. And although a few contrived traumas pop up in the third act (and the fourth and fifth, too), the movie isn't so much implausible as it is a blatant fantasy--clinched by closeups from the heroine's p.o.v. of the young hunk chewing waffles and red grapefruit.
Small wonder that one male critic claimed Stella "lives in a galaxy far removed from our own." Note to critic: Next time, try making that "my own."