Rodney Dangerfield has always had the potential to be one of the funniest men in American movies, and when filmmakers have taken advantage of that potential, the results have often been hilarious. Unfortunately, LADYBUGS squanders his talents in a cheap and crude comedy.
Dangerfield stars as Chester Lee, a working joe who hopes to win a long-overdue promotion in order to have the money to marry his longtime sweetheart, Bess (Ilene Graff). In an attempt to get in good with his boss, Dave Mullen (Tom Parks), Chester agrees to take on the job of coach for the
Ladybugs, the girls' soccer team sponsored by Mullen's company. He figures the job should be easy, since the team has won the last two championships, but he soon finds that all but one of the young players this year are newcomers, none of them particularly skilled at the game. Drafting his
assistant, Julie Benson (Jackee), to help him, Chester leads the Ladybugs into their first game of the season--which, naturally, ends in a crushing defeat.
Desperate for a solution to the team's problems, Chester enlists the help of Bess's son Matthew (Jonathan Brandis), with the idea that the boy, who possesses considerable athletic skills, can improve the Ladybugs' fortunes by dressing as a girl and joining the team. At first, the young man is
naturally opposed to the idea, but he is convinced when he discovers that Kimberly (Vinessa Shaw), Mullen's beautiful daughter whom he has a crush on, is part of the team.
The Ladybugs begin to score one victory after another, and things start to look bright for Chester. But the other girls start to become upset that "Martha," their new teammate, is the only one capturing any glory on the team, and Bess ultimately discovers Chester's ruse and angrily breaks their
engagement. Chester sinks into despair, but with encouragement from Matthew, he restores his faith in himself. He reveals the true identity of "Martha" to the other girls and tells them they're all winners, and the girls go on to win the championship game. Chester gets his promotion and wins back
Bess, and all ends happily.
Considering that LADYBUGS was Dangerfield's first film in the six years since the smash hit BACK TO SCHOOL, it's all the more dispiriting that he chose for his follow-up project this witless and obnoxious comedy. The plot is a heavy-handed slog through THE BAD NEWS BEARS territory, with
screenwriter Curtis Burch (the press notes claim this is his first major screenplay, though he also cowrote the equally inane 1983 teen-sex comedy JOYSTICKS) faithfully trotting out every predictable plot turn during the second half.
His worst offense, however, is the rather grotesque subplot about young Matthew being talked into adopting transvestism in order to help his potential stepfather, complete with jokes about which rest room to use and a scene in which he must rapidly switch roles from boy to girl and back again when
Kimberly stops by for a visit. The screenplay even sinks to the level of using the ruse as the setup for an offensive later scene in which Chester, bemoaning his troubles in a bar, is mistaken for a child molester.
The blame hardly begins or ends with the screenplay, however. Whoever decided that Sidney J. Furie--whose prior credits include the action-movie flops SUPERMAN IV and THE TAKING OF BEVERLY HILLS--was the right director for a Dangerfield comedy should have their heads examined. He displays no sense
of wit or comic timing, allows everything to be played as broadly as possible and can't even muster up any enthusiasm for the soccer scenes. The actors are pretty much left to their own devices, with Dangerfield occasionally scoring a good laugh but ultimately left to fall back on his old
one-liners at numerous points. Jackee tries hard in a fairly demeaning part, while Brandis looks understandably embarrassed as Matthew/Martha.
The rest of the cast do what they can with their stock roles, and that includes the Ladybugs themselves--a p.c. team if ever there was one, complete with one Black, one Asian, one fat girl and one beauty (Shaw) who looks a good deal older than the rest of her teammates. Of course, this was
probably intentional, to keep Matthew's attraction to her in good taste, but it's just about the only concession to good taste to be found in LADYBUGS. (Profanity, adult situations.)
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- Released: 1992
- Rating: PG-13
- Review: Rodney Dangerfield has always had the potential to be one of the funniest men in American movies, and when filmmakers have taken advantage of that potential, the results have often been hilarious. Unfortunately, LADYBUGS squanders his talents in a cheap an… (more)