The Ladies Man (2000)
Directed by Reginald Hudlin
Cast: Tim Meadows, Karyn Parsons, Billy Dee Williams, Will Ferrell, Lee Evans, Tiffani Thiessen, Tamala Jones, Julianne Moore, Eugene Levy.
2000 87 minutes
Rated: (for profanity, nudity, and sex).
Reviewed by Dustin Putman, October 15, 2000.
It has become a sort of yearly tradition that Paramount Films teams up with SNL Studios to adapt one of their popular television skits into a feature-length film, for release each successive October. 1998 saw the surprisingly funny "A Night at the Roxbury," arguably the best SNL adaptation since 1992's "Wayne's World," and 1999's "Superstar," based on the Catholic school girl character Mary Katherine Gallagher, was generally entertaining, yet far too thin to fill up its already-brief 82-minute running time. Of their three most recent stabs at big-screen stardom, this year's "The Ladies Man," based on the exploits of shallow womanizer Leon Phelps, is, by far, the worst of the lot. Mostly unfunny and truly misguided in every respect, the film has neither the laughs of "Roxbury" nor the heart of "Superstar," exposing itself as merely a very shallow and forgettable comedy.
Ever since appearing on the doorstep of the Playboy mansion as a baby, Leon Phelps (Tim Meadows) has been a high-stylin', trash-talkin', woman-usin' sexual fanatic whose wardrobe and poofy hairstyle apparently haven't changed since the 1970's. Along with loyal producer and long-time friend Julie (Karyn Parsons), Leon runs a nightly radio call-in show called "The Ladies Man," in which he tries to solve the listeners' "romantic queries." When his raunchy and offensive show steps over the line, Leon and Julie find themselves jobless, hopping from one local radio station to the next in hopes of being hired.
All the while, a disgruntled man (Lee Evans) who caught his wife sleeping with Leon, joins a support group for husbands whose wives' have cheated on them with the mysterious black man with the smiley-face tattooed on his buttocks. They do not yet know his identity, of course, because all any of them have ever glimpsed was his naked backside as he ran away.
When SNL producer Lorne Michaels puts his head together each year with Paramount to develop a film based on one of their skits, is there ever any thought into actually developing it outside of its sketchy mediocrity? This question plagues the entirety of "The Ladies Man," inauspiciously directed by Reginald Hudlin (1992's "Boomerang") and written by Tim Meadows and Dennis McNicholas, which includes an enjoyable opening five minutes and then settles into complete tedium, its novelty run out before the middle of the first reel.
At least, at 87 minutes, it is mercifully short, though not short enough. In bringing his spicy Leon Phelps character to the big screen, Tim Meadows has done very little to make him more than a one-dimensional figure with middling appeal. In all fairness, Meadows is clearly having fun with his performance, but he isn't terribly charismatic, and pales in comparison to female costar Karyn Parsons (TV's "The Fresh Prince of Bel Air"), who shows a great deal of star presence and makes for a naturalistic romantic counterpart. It's just too bad she is stuck in disposable films such as "The Ladies Man" when her talent as an actress is obvious.
The supporting cast is nothing special--strictly television-star level. The usually enjoyable Will Ferrell (1999's "Dick") slums it up as the leader of the support group for Leon Phelps' victims, who is allegedly outraged that his wife, Honey DeLune (Tiffani Thiessen), slept with Leon, despite his fevered attraction to man-on-man body wrestling. Tiffani Thiessen (TV's "Beverly Hills, 90210") is sorely wasted in a brief appearance, although she is the most memorable of the minor characters. And for reasons unknown, as if out of some especially bizarre "Twilight Zone" episode, Academy Award nominee Julianne Moore (1999's "Magnolia") has a cameo as one of Leon's "women of the past." A truly bizarre casting decision, but also really the only noteworthy element of the otherwise dispensable "The Ladies Man."
Since Leon is a purely sexual and outrageous creature, as that is all he has ever been portrayed as on NBC's "Saturday Night Live," we are supposed to buy the conclusion's twist in "The Ladies Man," which is that he gradually begins to realize how infinitely more satisfying love is, rather than just a series of meaningless trysts. It's difficult to imagine SNL ever being able to feature this character on their show any longer, since the turning point for the character is one that defies his personality and loose attitude seen on the show. Congratulations must go out to Lorne Michaels; not only did he make a very bad movie, but he also managed to destroy the possible longevity of one of his brightest on-going SNL skits.
©2000 by Dustin Putman