Rated R - Running Time: 1:24 - Released 10/13/00

I have oft discussed the abundance of sub-par material that has sprung from the loins of the Saturday Night Live star-making machine; there is no doubt that 25-year SNL producer Lorne Michaels has an eye for talent, but he has also repeatedly demonstrated his lack of discretion in selecting quality scripts. The few good movies to come out of the show (The Blues Brothers) is outweighed by the dreck (Coneheads, It's Pat, A Night At The Roxbury), and this pattern is based not so much on bad performances as on the poor quality of the screenplays.

However, in the case of The Ladies' Man, the star vehicle for long time SNL member Tim Meadows, the fault lies in the script and the actor. I have never thought Meadows a very versatile performer — his lack of range sticks out like a sore thumb among the many talented SNL co-stars he has performed with all these years — but his attempt to promote radio talk show host and sex advisor Leon Phelps to the big screen is hampered as much by the film's third-rate script as Meadows's own weakness as an actor. Written by Meadows, Dennis McNicholas, and Andrew Steele, and directed by Reginald Hudlin (House Party), The Ladies' Man demonstrates just how low Michaels's SNL production company can go.

As anyone who has watched SNL in recent years is doubtless aware, Leon Phelps is a crass, sexist, afro-wearing '70s throwback who advises callers seeking sex-related advice on his talk show, "The Ladies' Man." Surrounded by incense, candles, a set full of '70s afro-kitsch, and his ever-present bottle of Corvoisier cognac, Leon boasts to have "done" a lot of ladies (admitting, however, that most of them have been "skanks"), and answers people's queries about sexual/romantic concerns with advice that inevitably bears outdated sensibilities and a sexist slant. "If you are under 50, and are not freaky or disgusting, please give me a call," he says. But his propensity for offending his audience costs him his job, and while he and his producer, the lovely and intelligent Julie (Karyn Parsons) search for work at other stations, a group of incensed husbands led by former Olympic Greco-Roman wrestling contender Lance DeLune (Will Ferrell) seek to destroy him for seducing their wives and thereby ruining their marriages.

Meanwhile, Leon receives an anonymous letter from a wealthy woman he used to call "Sweet Thing," saying that she still loves him and wants to get back together. In reality, the mystery woman is Lance's neglected wife Honey (Tiffani-Amber Thiessen), who is frustrated by Lance's obsession with wrestling and his desire to spend all his time with his sparring partner. Feeling that his future is made, Leon sets out to find the woman unaware that Julie herself has developed feelings for him.

The first among many questions any rational person would have upon seeing this film is why Leon and his show are so popular, given his offensive manner with his callers. He outrages everyone he speaks to, on and off the air, except Julie and his loser friends at the local bar (whose owner is played by Billy Dee Williams, taking a major career hit). Julie's affection for him is the second such unanswered question. Moreover, the sex-related humor, most of it merely ineffective, is not nearly as bad as one particularly disgusting scene which devolves from a pointless exercise to a scatalogical gross-out, adding nothing to the film but a sophomoric attempt to copy Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me.

I will admit that "The Ladies' Man" is one of Meadows's funnier characters, but his work here is hardly worthy of big-screen exposure, and the thin scattering of chuckle-inducing material (mainly contributed by Ferrell) is far outweighed by the lack of inspiration in the script.

Copyright 2000 by John R. McEwen and The Republican

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