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(2000) (Tim Meadows, Karyn Parsons) (R)

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Comedy: A self-proclaimed, '70s style ladies man tries to find a job and one of his past lovers after being fired from his late-night, love-line radio show.
Leon Phelps (TIM MEADOWS) is self-proclaimed '70s style ladies man and late-night radio show host who dispenses advice about the matters of the heart and loins to his Chicago audience, stemming from his expertise on the matter of having been with thousands of women - most of them married.

When he steps over the lines of on-air decency one too many times, however, he and his producer, Julie Simmons (KARYN PARSONS), find themselves fired and unable to get another radio gig due to his salacious material. As such, they hang out at Lester's Straight Up Lounge, a bar run by none other than Lester (BILLY DEE WILLIAMS), and try to figure out what to do.

Unbeknownst to Leon, Barney (LEE EVANS), the jealous husband of one of his lovers, has joined a militant band of other such jilted men, the "Victims of the Smiling Ass" (so named for the smiley face on Leon's butt cheek which is the last thing seen of him as he flees into the night after any such encounter). Led by Lance (WILL FERRELL), a Greco-Roman wrestling fanatic, the men have set out to find the adulterer.

When Leon gets an anonymous letter from one of his past lovers that says she's rich and wants him back, the ladies man thinks he's hit pay dirt, despite a growing fondness between him and Julie who previously managed to resist his charms. As Leon sets out to find this woman - who turns out to be Honey DeLune (TIFFANI THIESSEN) - he must not only contend with the VSA members, but also his feelings toward Julie.

OUR TAKE: 1 out of 10
By the time most people have departed their childhood, they've come to realize that life isn't always a bowl of cherries, that things don't always go their way, and that certain unavoidable nuisances come around from time to time - and occasionally year after year - that manage to keep people in their place in the cosmos.

Among the periodic ones are earthquakes, hurricanes and other tempestuous forms of nature, while the prime example of the annual variety is taxes. While the latter serves somewhat of a beneficial purpose, few see any of that in other annual pests such as the common cold and mosquitoes. Although not yet historically an annual event (although this marks the third year in a row it's occurred), the adaptation of "Saturday Night Live" skits into feature-length films is becoming just as irritating and pointless.

While a few of them have been decent and/or hits at the box office, producer/"SNL" guru Lorne Michaels is currently batting 0 for 4 with 1998's "Blues Brothers 2000" and "A Night at the Roxbury," 1999's "Superstar," and now this year's "The Ladies Man."

Based on the skit of the same name that first aired on "SNL" in October of 1997, the film is as maddening as taxes, as irritating and pointless as a cold, and comes off far more annoying than a mosquito buzzing about your head at night while you try to sleep.

It's hard to imagine what big screen potential Michaels, director Reginald Hudlin ("The Great White Hype," "Boomerang") and screenwriters Tim Meadows, Andrew Steele and Dennis McNicholas (all "SNL" writers making their collective big screen debut) saw in the original skits that feature Meadows (TV's "Saturday Night Live" and a few bit parts in several of its cinematic spin-offs) as a smooth talking womanizer who dispenses advice to the lovelorn. Relying solely on Meadows' characterization of that '70s style ladies man, the skits are marginally amusing at best and thankfully only run for a few minutes at a time.

They certainly don't seem to possess any underlying story that's begging to be told and expanded into an 80 some minute feature length film, but that hasn't stopped Michaels before - and it doesn't here - although it clearly should have. Nonetheless, and as was the case with many such adaptations before this one, the filmmakers have thrown all caution, common sense and even mediocre filmmaking talent to the wind, delivering a film that seems written by and targeted to the stereotypical, young male teenager.

As such, there are plenty of double entendres that would make the Beavis and Butthead crowd proud, along with enough risqué language/dialogue, nudity and non-graphic sexual encounters to give the film an R rating and thus goose that target audience, despite them presumably not being to see it due to that rating (but that's entirely another can of worms we won't open here).

The plot is sophomoric at best and idiotic at worst, with various story elements, contrivances and developments showing little if any imagination, cleverness or originality. In essence, this is lowest common denominator filmmaking at its best/worst (depending on how you view such matters), with the story seemingly being conceived by a bunch of young and giddy adolescents who laughed at their jokes while formulating the plot, without worrying if anyone else would join them in the "merriment."

If you're idea of funny is watching Meadows' character having dirty thoughts as he twists the words of a nun who's talking about assuming a missionary position in Bangkok where she'll "take it all in," dialogue along the lines of "Excuse me. I'll be going to the bathroom to puke up a hog ball" (after a character consumes such a testicle), or the sight of a man unknowingly eating pickled fecal matter, then this film might just be right down your alley.

Of course, some may correctly argue that the Austin Powers films had some of those same sophomoric and/or juvenile qualities and tendencies. While that's true, the retro charm, clever writing, characterizations and the presence of Mike Myers made them tolerable and certainly more entertaining than what's presented here.

While Meadows shares the "SNL" pedigree with Myers, he's clearly not in the same comedic league with him, and his "ladies man" bit - while initially a tad charming -- quickly grows tiresome as it simply repeats the same basic material, with the lame script giving it nowhere to go or develop. Fellow "SNL" player Will Farrell ("A Night at the Roxbury," the "Austin Powers" films) doesn't help matters much due to his underdeveloped, one-note character.

Karyn Parsons ("Class Act," TV's "The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air"), Billy Dee Williams ("Batman," "The Empire Strikes Back") and Lee Evans ("There's Something About Mary," "Mouse Hunt") appear in various supporting roles, but don't manage to do much other than lessen their agents' bargaining power when negotiating the salary for their next acting gigs. Cameos by the likes of Eugene Levy ("Best in Show," "American Pie") and even Julianne Moore ("The End of the Affair," "Boogie Nights") do absolutely nothing for the film or the viewer's enjoyment of it.

Simply put, the film is arguably one of the worst pictures of the year, with a lame, sophomoric, and predictable story, as well as one-dimensional characters and performers combining to form nothing short of a cinematic debacle. One can only hope that between now and next year - or whenever the next such "SNL" adaptation appears like the latest form of the plague - that someone will pass a law, develop a vaccine, or create a pesticide that will prevent that from occurring. "The Ladies Man" rates as a 1 out of 10.

Reviewed September 28, 2000 / Posted October 13, 2000

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