The Ladies Man

on October 13, 2000 by Wade Major
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   In the pantheon of "Saturday Night Life" sketch spin-offs, "The Ladies Man" falls roughly into the middle along with such efforts as "A Night at the Roxbury" and "Superstar"--several notches above disasters like "It's Pat," but not nearly as royal as "Wayne's World." Decidedly uneven from an objective standpoint, "The Ladies Man" should nonetheless hit on all cylinders with fans of the popular sketch, guaranteeing it enough success to propel star Tim Meadows to a higher rung of stardom.

   For the uninitiated, the film focuses on the amorous exploits of "Ladies Man" Leon Phelps (Meadows), a late-night radio call-in show host whose trademark lasciviousness and consistently lurid advice has finally caught the attention of the FCC, resulting in the expulsion of Phelps and his producer, Julie (Karyn Parsons), from their jobs. That's when the mysterious note arrives, an unsigned love letter from a former conquest begging Leon to return and share in her riches. But as Leon goes about his "needle in a haystack" search, a greater problem arises in the form of an angry posse of jealous husbands, all victims of Leon's seductive talents and hell-bent on emasculating the nuisance once and for all.

   "The Ladies Man" works best when playing to the strengths of the character, namely Leon's innocently lewd descriptions of the sexual act and his shameless propensity for sharing the most intimate details of his personal fetishes. Elsewhere, the film's humor is more checkered, with some jokes falling painfully flat while others erupt with unexpected hilarity. Still others are hit-and-miss, resorting to the kind of scatological gross-out humor that often disgusts as many as it delights. Supporting actors are particularly helpful to the overall effort, notably Meadows' longtime SNL colleague Will Ferrell as the obsessively zealous leader of the angry husbands and the ever-charismatic Billy Dee Williams as Leon's neighborhood barkeep. Parsons is a welcome presence, too, adding dimension and more than a little feminine strength to the often thankless "love interest" role.

   In the end, though, any criticism of a film like "The Ladies Man" is essentially moot. Those not already enamored of the sketch aren't likely to be converted by the film, while fans of the Courvasier-swigging Romeo will undoubtedly thrill to his big-screen debut, gleefully overlooking the film's myriad weaknesses in favor of its few but considerable strengths.    Starring Tim Meadows, Karyn Parsons, Billy Dee Williams, John Witherspoon and Will Ferrell. Directed by Reginald Hudlin. Written by Tim Meadows & Dennis McNicholas & Andrew Steele. Produced by Lorne Michaels. A Paramount Pictures release. Comedy. Rated R for sexual content and language. Running time: 85 min.

Tags: Tim Meadows, Karyn Parsons, Billy Dee Williams, John Witherspoon and Will Ferrell. Directed by Reginald Hudlin. Written by Tim Meadows & Dennis McNicholas & Andrew Steele. Produced by Lorne Michaels. A Paramount Pictures release. Comedy
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