The Ladies Man
2000, R, 84 min. Directed by Reginald Hudlin. Starring Tim Meadows, Karyn Parsons, Billy Dee Williams, Will Ferrell, Lee Evans, Tiffani Thiessen, Eugene Levy, John Witherspoon, Julianne Moore.
REVIEWED By Marc Savlov, Fri., Oct. 13, 2000
Leon Phelps (Meadows) has never met booty he couldn't plunder. Between his mile-high Afro, crème-colored flairs, and open-just-shy-of-the-navel rayon disco shirts, he's a walking anachronism, a pleasant enough fellow who just happens to fixate 24/7 on the female of the species. When he and his producer Julie (Parsons) find themselves unemployed after Leon's phat-mackin' radio show is canned due to lascivious content, the platonic duo must suffer the indignities of an ever-fickle marketplace, while ladies' man Leon strives to “get it on, babee.” Based on the popular, if minor, Saturday Night Live sketch of the same name, and directed by House Party's Hudlin, there's unfortunately more padding here than in any other three SNL spinoffs combined. The premise, that Leon is so over the top in his desire for that big booty score, works fine during the TV show's five-minute sketches. Leon, so outrageous, so clearly unaware of the politically correct tenor of the times, is a cartoonish buffoon, forever trumpeting the amorous advantages of Courvoisier cognac and pina colada butt lotion. He's so far out there that he's not even genuinely offensive. What lady could take this discotheque Lothario with anything but a grain of salt and five -- maybe six -- tequila slammers? And in his own way, the character is a model of misogynist restraint. Like Mr. John Shaft, it is his duty to please that booty. Oh yeah, baby. But what works on TV (and more to the point, on SNL) doesn't always translate to the big screen. Unlike Leon's randy radio show, the film is filled with dead air. Gags that sputter to a frazzled close like a wet firecracker abound. A subplot involving a group of angry husbands (Leon, of course, has nastified their wives) is shameless in its pointlessness. As the Greco-Roman wrestling fanatic (!) and leader of the irate pack, SNL regular Ferrell phones in his performance from Planet Suck -- there's nothing remotely funny about his closeted gay character, while genuine actors like Billy Dee Williams (playing the owner of Leon's favorite watering hole) and -- what the hell?! -- Julianne Moore appear as if on loan from some other film entirely. There's maybe a good two belly laughs here, and that's a generous assessment. Whole passages of the film grind by with nary a chuckle in sight. It's one of the most deadly dull SNL spinoffs since the rightfully forgotten It's Pat! or A Night at the Roxbury. Meadows himself is a likable, quixotic comic, possessed of sly asides, fine timing, and an innocent, “What? Me worry?” visage. Sadly, precious little of what makes him one of the best of the current crop of SNL performers is evident here. Instead, we get endless butt gags and poorly thought-out jokes about exploding houseboats. The occasional throwaway gag rises to fore only to vanish without a trace, while truly unfunny attempts rise and bob about like the beard on a three-week-old cappuccino. A foul image indeed, but then, so is The Ladies Man.