After a six-week hiatus, this column returns to assess the artistic integrity — or lack thereof — of the 2000 comedy The Ladies Man. The film earned positive marks from just 11 percent of the 72 critics who reviewed it, and the consensus from critics seemed to be that the movie was overly vulgar, dry and generally a gigantic waste of time and money. Perhaps the best indicator of the movie’s worth was its lack of success at the box office. Despite a $24 million budget and decent cast, the flick raked in just $13.4 million.
Based on an SNL sketch and produced by Lorne Michaels, the movie stars Tim Meadows as Leon Phelps, a sex-obsessed radio host and sex therapist seeking to reconnect with one of his former flings. That’s about everything of substance that can be said about the plot and Phelps’s character. The movie plays like a bunch of sketches lined one after the other, but any connection between them seems purely coincidental. Will Ferrell, Eugene Levy, Chris Parnell and Karyn Parsons appear in supporting roles, but all except Ferrell add little or nothing to the movie.
The Ladies Man has about as many sex jokes as could possibly fit in to 84 minutes, so, if you’re into that kind of thing, I’d definitely recommend you see the movie. It’s easy to see why many critics thought the short skit was best left as is, but Leon’s character is entertaining enough to keep the film interesting. Sure, he’s a shallow, self-involved sex-addict who looks like he dropped out of the 70s, but he’s a damn funny one. One prominent online movie critic, James Berardinelli, called Leon “fundamentally unlikable,” but I say it’s just the opposite. He’s nothing if not foolish, but his love of Courvoisier, innocent lisp, houseboat and corny pickup lines make him a lovable fool.
Some of the film’s finest moments come with Ferrell’s on-screen appearances. He plays the husband of one of Phelps’s former lovers and the head of a group aiming to kill Leon for his womanizing. A few of Ferrell’s top moments in film have been in cameo roles (Eastbound & Down and Wedding Crashers to name a few), and his role here is no different. Unfortunately Levy and Parnell’s roles lack the same zest.
Comedy Central seems to play the movie every couple weeks, as if some high-level executive feels the need to showcase the low point of Michaels’ comedic career whenever possible, which only adds insult to injury. As a result, however, I’ve seen a censored version of the movie on TV multiple times, and enjoyed it enough to give it a review. As a teenager, I enjoyed the vulgar and sophomoric jokes, and this time around was no different. The humor is definitely immature, but there are enough good jokes to keep it interesting.
All in all, I find it a little hard to believe that only 11 percent of critics like The Ladies Man. It’s not exactly comedic genius, but I like to think there a few more people out there who can ignore a subpar plot as long as the jokes are good. The Ladies Man is bad, but come on, it’s not that bad.