It's been eight years since a "Saturday Night Live" skit spawned a feature film that wasn't an outright embarrassment -- but while "Ladies Man," the latest of the bunch, is no "Wayne's World," it has more and better laughs than "Superstar," "A Night at the Roxybury" and "Coneheads" combined.
True, that's not a ringing endorsement. In fact, this slight and uneven flick isn't the kind of thing you want to drop $8 on at the multiplex. It's more an inspiration rental, so now that it's on video, I say go for it.
While the script is of the construction paper and Elmer's Glue variety, Tim Meadows does a bang-up job of turning his out-of-touch mack daddy character from a one-joke sketch premise into a likable goofball lothario who is entertaining for the better part of the movie's 87 minutes.
Narrated by a barkeep played by Billy Dee Williams, whose velvety voice is a perfect seriocomic auditory gag, the movie opens with a little history about Leon Phelps (Meadows), the lisping lowbrow lover with a stuck-in-1976 polyester wardrobe. It seems Leon was an orphan left on the doorstep of the Playboy mansion in Chicago, where he was raised as Hugh Hefner's son until, as a teenager, he was caught in the sack with the one Playmate who was off limits. Thrown out on the street, he dumb-lucked his way into a gig as an expert de amour on his own 2 a.m. radio call-in show.
The story picks up after Leon is fired for FCC violations (an angle the movie completely fails to exploit with the proper blue humor). With free time on his hands, he decides to seek the woman of his dreams (read: sexy and rich). Meanwhile, a roving pack of foaming-mad jealous husbands try to hunt him down for nailing their wives. But they know him only by a smiley-face tattoo, which they've glimpsed on his backside as he exited their bedroom windows in the all-together.
The plot meanders a lot to accommodate a series of comedic set pieces like the job hunt montage with his inexplicably loyal producer Julie (Karyn Parsons) -- his brand of talk radio isn't exactly what the soft rock and evangelical stations are looking for.
Then he gets an unsigned letter from a wealthy ex-lover saying she still wants him and he'll be set for life if he'll only come back to her. Figuring out who this woman is becomes Leon's crusade, leading to another montage in which dozens of women slam doors in his face. (The scene in the TV commercials showing him at the door of a cross-dresser is nowhere to be found in the movie.)
As a shameless paramour who brags that he's had every kind of woman "from the loneliest bus station skank to the most high-society debutante bus station skank," Meadows doesn't ham through this half-wit role, but lets the satire wash over him. He's made an effort to develop his character and he's not chewing scenery, which is exactly why "The Ladies Man" is more like "Wayne's World" than the rest of its "SNL" movie brethren.
Ferrell, on the other hand, is like a boat anchor dragging the movie down in an over-the-top palooka performance. This is a guy who is always playing to the balcony, and every picture he's in is the worse for his presence.
Run time: 84 mins
In Theaters: Friday 13th October 2000
Box Office USA: $13.4M
Distributed by: Paramount Pictures
Contactmusic.com: 2.5 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 11%
Fresh: 8 Rotten: 65
IMDB: 5.1 / 10
Director: Reginald Hudlin
Also starring: Tim Meadows, Karyn Parsons, Billy Dee Williams, Will Ferrell, Tiffani-Amber Thiessen, Lee Evans, John Witherspoon, Jimmy Fallon, Tamala Jones, David Koechner, Mark McKinney, Chris Parnell
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