Because THE LADIES MAN has one of the worst trailers in recent memory, the
more I saw the trailers, the less I looked forward to the film's screening.
When it finally came time for the screening, I could barely force myself to
go. It turned out to be one of biggest and most enjoyable film surprises
I've had in some time. Whereas the movie is no THERE'S SOMETHING ABOUT
MARY, it is extremely funny and wonderfully sweet, although with quite a
raunchy brand of humor.
Directed with good comedic timing by Reginald Hudlin and written
uproariously by Tim Meadows, Dennis McNicholas and Andrew Steele, THE LADIES
MAN stars Tim Meadows as Leon Phelps. Leon is a radio talk show host who
likes to help people with their sexual difficulties. A mixture of Dr. Ruth
and Howard Stern, Leon throws out advice a mile a minute, most of it
The movie is like an African-American version of PRIVATE PARTS as it relates
Leon's life story. With the wild wackiness of AUSTIN POWERS, the movie
tells us of Leon's childhood as an orphan raised by buxom bunnies in a
Playboy Mansion look-alike with a Hugh Hefner clone as his surrogate father.
Having an Afro hairstyle from age 1 on, Leon is a guy who has been forever
stuck in the 70s. His radio show's advice comes from his long experience as
a ladies man, having had sex with half of the women in town. Maybe more.
Although this material could be crude and offensive, instead it is crude and
funny, thanks to Meadows's eminent likeableness. With his little, disarming
lisp, and his broad smile, he is such an easy guy to love that you can
understand women falling for him, even if he isn't the handsomest guy on the
block. A side-joke concerns his private part, which causes a blinding light
when unleashed, and his butt, which has a smiley tattooed on it.
One of the reasons for the film's surprising success is the casting of
Leon's sidekick. His radio producer and work companion, Julie, is played
with charm and spunk by Karyn Parsons. She is one of the few women in his
life with whom he hasn't slept.
After being thrown off of his popular radio show due to viewer complaints
and management who hates him -- again, shades of PRIVATE PARTS -- Leon goes
from rejection to rejection as he and Julie apply for jobs at other
stations. After promising Julie that he'll clean up his act, he finally
lands a job at a small religious station. His first guest is a nun who
talks about assuming a missionary position and traveling to Bangkok.
Sweating profusely, Leon looks in danger of short-circuiting his brain as he
fights back bawdy responses to the comedic softballs she unknowingly throws
The supporting cast is well utilized. Billy Dee Williams, playing a
bartender, serves also as the story's narrator, giving Leon's story a fairy
tale rendition. Will Ferrell plays Lance, the leader of a support group
(VSA - Victims of the Smiling Ass) of husbands whose wives have been caught
dallying with Leon. A Hummer driving, Greco-Roman wrestler who has a
proclivity for heavy body oil and other wrestlers, Lance turns out to be
quite a song-and-dance man. One of the film's delights is a long dance
number with the VSA men that seems straight out of an old Rodgers and
Hammerstein musical. It is well choreographed, tuneful and funny. (I'd
trade this one number for all of DANCER IN THE DARK.)
The people, including Julie's parents, who take Leon's advice, end up
happier and with a much better love life. So it is with the movie. Go in
expecting little and you may find the movie as charming and funny as I did.
Our half-full audience certainly laughed like a packed one.
THE LADIES MAN runs a lightening fast 1:24. It is rated R for sexual
content and language and would be acceptable for older teenagers.
Copyright © 2000 Steve Rhodes