"Lowbrow and somewhat predictable, but hey at least it delivers the goods."
You can probably count the number of good movies that came out of SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE sketches on one hand. And though producer Lorne Michaels continues to milk one-note characters such as the Roxbury Guys (A NIGHT AT THE ROXBURY) and Mary Catherine Gallagher (SUPERSTAR) and make a modest return for very little money, we can all rejoice that there also hasn't been a CHEERLEADERS movie, a SPROCKETS film and a COFFEE TALK feature for reviewers to suffer through.Naturally any new movie based on a SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE character immediately becomes the enemy. WAYNE'S WORLD was perhaps the last great movie that came out of sketch-land and what made that film work was it was in on the joke - cross-referencing pop culture and parodying other films in the process and not relying on the same joke over and over again for 90 minutes.
For the new SNL movie THE LADIES MAN, it's a bit different. Like the Wayne's World sketches, THE LADIES MAN sketches have always been entertaining. Actor Tim Meadows brought some freshness to a well-worn concept and whether it was him cavorting with Monica Lewinsky or the many other guest stars on his faux show, seeing the sketch was always a welcome relief to the uneven horrors SNL usually offers.
Directed by BOOMERANG/HOUSE PARTY helmer Reginald Hudlin, he brings a solid story sense to the film's randomness always making sure there's something holding it all together.
The movie begins with radio talk show host Leon Phelps (Meadows) doing what he does best - giving ill-advised ramblings about love usually resulting in telling people to do it doggie style or other insulting things. Naturally this gets him kicked off the radio. His long time producer Julie (Karyn Parsons) sticks with Phelps throughout it all -seeing that behind the veneer of his out-dated '70s machismo is a heart of gold. However, Leon doesn't see this at all and must endure a series of set-backs and failures while searching for what he believes is his one true love even though it's right in front of him the entire time.
Meanwhile, Leon has also created enemies of the various men whose wives he's slept with - and now they're organized! Headed by Lance (Will Ferrell), he gets his group of men to find Leon and pay him back for ruining their lives. This results in the film's more bizarro moments and perhaps one of its best - an outlandish Busby Berkeley musical number sung in the Disney Broadway style of music used in most of their animated films. It's not overdone or run into the ground which makes for a great detour midway in the film when you think they've run out of Leon shtick.
The key to THE LADIES MAN success though is Meadows. He brings a sweetness and innocence to this role. A womanizer is definitely not a very likable character yet he's very good at making him likable and the potential romance with Parsons is all the more plausible. I've also always been a big fan of Tim Meadows who I've felt was under the radar but always on target on SNL. Outside of Leon Phelps - the Ladies Man, he never really had his own break-out character but was always a great utility player.
There's definitely; a "THERE'S SOMETHING ABOUT MARY" vibe to the film's proceeding because it definitely pushes the envelope with crude, lewd humor. Some of it works, some of it doesn't. That's the name of the game with these types of film (but there's more laugh out loud laughs here than any given moment in this summer's new Farrelly brothers comedy ME, MYSELF AND IRENE).
On the downside, THE LADIES MAN does show its seams at times. The story is very predictable but tries to overcome that by having Billy Dee Williams serve as a narrator (and bartender of the place Leon hangs out in). It keeps the film going and even has a bit of a Coen brothers vibe to it.
THE LADIES MAN is the type of film SNL should be making - it has a good hit to miss ratio in the joke department and Leon Phelps is a genuinely likable sketch character that's been taken into movies.Sure it's lowbrow and somewhat predictable, but hey at least it delivers the goods. And after a dearth of unfunny movies all year, it's nice that with both this and MEET THE PARENTS that filmmakers haven't lost their sense of humor entirely. --- Anthony C. Ferrante - http://www.ifmagazine.com