Having just reviewed the thirtieth anniversary release of Harold Ramis' Caddyshack which featured comedian Rodney Dangerfield's first film role, it was with slightly more interest than I would've otherwise shown that I opted to take a second look at Dangerfield's forgettable 1992 underdog sports team/drag comedy Ladybugs. And despite originally being a Paramount production, it was with great surprise that I discovered that Ladybugs has somehow earned the Blu-ray treatment from Lionsgate with a July 6 release.
Admittedly, it's safe to say that Ladybugs isn't one of those hotly in-demand titles that high definition enthusiasts were craving to experience in 1080 pixels and indeed the image transfer is a little soft in the flesh tones and grainy throughout. Nonetheless, Dangerfield devotees are sure to feel right at ease with his same traditional brand of schtick comprised of one-liners, observational humor and essentially behaving as though he were doing stand-up around the clock in his role as an unappreciated salesman with a self-confidence problem.
Hoping to finally tie the knot with his fiancee Bess (Ilene Graff), Dangerfield's Chester Lee tries to convince his selfish boss Dave Mullen (Tom Parks) that he's long overdue for a promotion only to find himself nervously trying to impress his superior with a string of white lies about his passion for soccer, erroneously mistaking the trophies in his Dave's office for his sport of choice.
Revealing that the awards in all actuality belong to the team his company sponsors – the young teenage girls soccer team, the Ladybugs – Dave and his trophy wife (Jeannetta Arnette) fast-talk Chester into taking over as the champion level team's head coach with the added carrot that if Chester manages to score the office another statue, he'll earn that promotion.
Assuming that he'll be saddled with a team of young finely tuned athletes who know the game inside and out, Chester and his coworker turned assistant coach Julie (Jackee) are in for a cruel surprise when they discover that the Ladybugs are in a “rebuilding year.” Namely, the girls who scored the goals and the gold have moved on, leaving Chester with a bunch of novices and Julie's purchase of a book that's supposed to teach the two all they need to know about coaching adolescent soccer.
Instead of mining the Bad News Bears, Mighty Ducks terrain for laughs as he tries to pull the ragtag squad of girls including Dave's beautiful daughter Kimberly (Vinessa Shaw) into a great group of underdogs, the film's screenwriter Curtis Burch instead pulls out another comedy movie cliché that was overused in the '80s of gender bending drag.
Soon, following in the footsteps of Tootsie or Just One of the Guys, Chester recruits his fiancee's son Matthew (Jonathan Brandis) to don a wig and a dress and join the team as Martha, putting his soccer know-how and natural talent to good use.
While the young, adorable Brandis does most of the movie's comedic heavy lifting by throwing himself energetically into the implausible premise and recycled subplots strung together throughout the film, there's no making up for the fact that it's just a wrong move wholeheartedly.
Suddenly we realize that we could care less about Chester's storyline since he never truly convinces us that he's interested in coaching or committed to helping the girls except by cheating as instead Brandis' Matthew becomes the confidence building hero who saves the day.
Perhaps this could've been fixed by either ditching the drag plot altogether or ditching Dangerfield since he tries to be Groucho Marx instead of an actual character playing a role. But as the film stands, there's not much to recommend Ladybugs to anyone except for preteens on a rainy day if it happens to be on TV, despite the fact that similar to Will Ferrell's far funnier and overall tamer Kicking and Screaming a few of the more adult themed jokes may be a little too suggestive for younger viewers.
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FTC Disclosure: Per standard professional practice, I received a review copy of this title in order to evaluate it for my readers, which had no impact whatsoever on whether or not it received a favorable or unfavorable critique.
Labels: Blu-ray Review