The Ladies Man

Friday, October 13th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

By Tom Sime / The Dallas Morning News

Though it's about as misbegotten as a movie can be, it's easy to imagine the origins of The Ladies Man.

Saturday Night Live alumnus Tim Meadows to producer Lorne Michaels: "C'mon, Lorne, there have been so many awful SNL movies. When's it gonna be my turn?"

Lorne Michaels: "No, Tim, no. It'll never work." Repeat dialogue over years and years, as Superstar, Stewart Saves His Family, and A Night at the Roxbury come and go. But at last Mr. Michaels relents. "OK, OK, Tim. It couldn't be worse than It's Pat."

Or could it? The Ladies Man joins the crop of terrible movies based on Saturday Night Live skits, and offers serious competition for a title as the worst.

Mr. Meadows, like his former colleagues, crashes and burns as he tries to take one of his marginally funny SNL characters – Leon Phelps, a lisping radio advice-giver stuck in the '70s – to the big screen. Luckily, he's got a backup plan with a supporting role on The Michael Richards Show.

Director Reginald Hudlin, known for the House Party movies, tries to keep things wacky, but the story is leaden, impossible. It's too nice but too dirty, too sincere but too phony.

The screenplay – co-written by Mr. Meadows – lets us in on all aspects of Leon's life, from his beginnings as an infant left on Hugh Hefner's doorstep to his current digs on a psychedelic Chicago houseboat. From his first baby steps, Leon shows a penchant for seduction. The explanation is just what you'd expect in a stereotypical comedy about a black male "love machine."

On his eponymous radio show, "The Ladies Man" dispenses romantic advice in the coarsest terms. Between "angry calls and threats from the boss," his job is always in jeopardy, despite the advocacy of his devoted producer, Julie (Karyn Parsons), who affectionately calls Leon a "lonely, misguided idiot."

Eventually, Leon goes too far and gets fired. Then he finds himself the target of a homicidal organization of men, led by Will Ferrell, whose wives he's bedded. They know him only by the smiley-face tattoo on his rear end.

Billy Dee Williams, Eugene Levy and many SNL vets pop up in help-a-friend-out roles. Most shocking is a cameo by Julianne Moore as a hot-to-trot circus clown. It almost persuades one that Mr. Meadows could persuade any woman to do anything.