A Night at the Roxbury. It’s Pat. Stuart Saves His Family. Superstar . Do any of these movies ring a bell? They were all misguided attempts at bringing Saturday Night Live sketches and characters to life.
With few exceptions, such as Blues Brothers and Wayne’s World, these films are almost always doomed from the start. They are inherently flawed in structure. Yes, characters that star in these films may be able to bring about great guffaws of laughter for the five minutes they are on TV. But sustaining these sketches over the course of an entire film – even though these films barely crack the 90-minute mark – is an incredibly difficult task, and one that usually fails.
The Ladies Man, the new movie based on an SNL sketch, also falls right into this trap. Like in many other SNL movies, the hero of the movie, Leon Phelps (played by Tim Meadows), has no character history prior to the production of the film. The prologue of the film, which is narrated by Billy Dee Williams, is easily the best part of the movie. It even elicits a laugh or two. But the laughter quickly ends.
Leon, fired from his somewhat-popular talk-radio program for racy comments, moves from job to job searching for his secret benefactress, played by Tiffani Thiessen (Beverly Hills 90210, Saved By the Bell), who will support him for the rest of the life. Engrossed in his search, Leon ends up missing the woman right in front of him who truly loves him – played by Karyn Parsons (Fresh Prince of Bel Air). Along the way, a group of angry husbands, led by Meadows’s fellow SNL cast member Will Ferrell in his typical screaming persona, attempts to thwart Leon in his efforts.
Why does producer Lorne Michaels, who has so successfully weathered the ups and downs of SNL for more than 25 years, keep making such awful forays into the world of motion pictures? For a couple of reasons. One is that these films have small budgets. They generally don’t feature high-priced actors or directors, and unless the movies completely fail (which some have managed to do – see It’s Pat), they make their money back. Second, SNL has a devoted core audience that has stuck with the show through all its trials and tribulations for the decades it has aired. For some reason, Michaels also expects these fans to go right into the theaters, too.
SNL fans should not be taken for granted. A decent script and actors, both which The Ladies Man sorely lacks, are still required.