First, the good news. (1) It isn’t very long. If you are going to waste time at a movie, you won’t waste more than 85 minutes on this one. (2) It isn’t as bad as some of the other SNL movies, like “Superstar” and “It’s Pat.” It’s more of the caliber of “Stuart Saves His Family,” meaning that there are some very funny moments. (3) Will Ferrell is great as the husband of one of The Ladies Man’s ladies and some of the other SNL and “Kids in the Hall” veterans provide some bright spots. (4) It’s always great to see Billy Dee Williams.
Now, the bad news. You can’t make a five minute SNL sketch into a feature-length movie, even a short movie. It will have to have stretches of obvious padding, as in a useless sequence about how The Ladies Man grew up in the Playboy mansion. Most attempts to make a sketch character work in a movie try one of two options. Either he has to stay one-dimensional and get tiring or he has to have more depth and become less funny. This movie makes both mistakes, recycling the same jokes over and over and then asking us to believe that he’s really a loveable guy. Meadows the screenwriter should do better by Meadows the performer, who is much more talented than this material.
Tim Meadows plays Leon Phelps, a late-night talk show host who drinks Corvoisier as he does his broadcast and has been repeatedly fined by the FCC for using inappropriate language on the air. He and his beautiful producer Julie (Karyn Parsons of “Fresh Prince of Bel Air”) are fired and have to find new work. Julie gets organized and begins making pitches to other local stations. But Leon’s approach to problems is to “go have sex and wait for something to randomly happen.” He tries to track down a former lover who has written to offer him a fortune. He doesn’t realize that the husbands of many of his ladies have banded together to go after him, communicating via a “victims of the smiling ass” website, a reference to a tattoo of a smiley face that is glimpsed as he jumps out of the bedroom windows. Much comic chaos ensues, including a very gross bar-food eating contest.
Parents should know that this gets a well-deserved R rating for frequent and explicit sexual references. Though intended to be comic, Leon’s behavior is foolish, risky, hurtful, and exploitive. It may be an odd sign of progress in race relations that a movie like this can include a comic scene of a potential lynching, but it still may strike some viewers as uncomfortably insensitive to the tragic evidence of past racism.
Families who see this movie can talk about the ways that some people use sex to hide from feelings of sorrow or loneliness, and how Julie sees something in Leon that no one else does.
People who enjoy this movie will also enjoy the best of the SNL movies, “Wayne’s World.”