After screening this one, Judge Dennis Prince agrees that respect has to be earned.
Our review of Ladybugs (Blu-Ray), published June 28th, 2010, is also available.
He's Coach…not first class.
Chester Lee (Rodney Dangerfield, Caddyshack) has been a loyal company man for over a decade. After "buying" some confidence at a self-motivation seminar, Chester convinces himself, "I'm great. I'm wonderful. Everybody likes me." Off he goes to confront his boss, Mr. Mullen (Tom Parks, Clockstoppers) and ask for a long-overdue promotion. Mr. Mullen hardly notices Chester and his roundabout rambling, chatting on the phone to a golf buddy and largely preoccupied with the need to find a new coach for the company-sponsored girl's soccer team, the reigning champion Ladybugs. When his pleas fall upon deaf ears, Chester lies that he's quite the soccer player himself, earning himself the position of coach of the pre-teen squad and a possible promotion provided the Ladybugs bring home another championship.
Chester and his office assistant, Julie (Jackée Harry, You Got Served) set off to fake their way to a trophy, relying on the well-honed skills of the perpetual championship Ladybugs. The trouble begins when Chester realizes he's acquired a completely new squad, this being deemed a "rebuilding" season. Frantically, Chester begs his girlfriend's son, Matthew (Jonathan Brandis, seaQuest DSV) to help out. Dubious of Chester's intentions, Matthew reluctantly agrees to help despite the fact that he'll need to don a wig and attire to appear as "Martha." Can Chester earn the respect of Matthew/Martha, gain the promotion so he can marry Matthew's mother, and somehow find a way to win it all before getting kicked in the grass?
Ladybugs is a simple comedy that is mostly a showcase for Dangerfield's patented one-liners ("When she walks into the kitchen, the mice jump up on chairs."). Around this is a thin plot that hurries itself along to enable the next zinger. In fact, the various plot devices and resolutions are so hurried that they appear dismissive of the need for plot or character development. To that end, the characters are severely two-dimensional; they exist only to provide fodder to Dangerfield's hit-and-run quips (fun though they frequently are). Ultimately, the overall premise is rife with inconceivable developments given what sparse information we're offered about the characters' motivations. Jonathan Brandis's "Matthew" is sour and surly to Chester, purportedly distrustful that this man is truly interested in making Mom happy. Not only does Chester convince Matthew to help coach the Ladybugs but also he also effortlessly gets the teen to do it in drag. C'mon, really? Sure, this is a comedy that's not to be taken seriously, but the fact that it fails to establish any kind of plausibility works to undermine it before it can ever gain a foothold.
Brandis, sadly, ended his own life in 2003 at the age of 27, reportedly despondent over his prolonged dry spell after his work in seaQuest DSV. His fans often cite Ladybugs as one of his high points, but certainly he achieved far greater accomplishments than this. Because of the unevenness of the plot, Brandis is reduced to being a "cute face" in a cute movie and certainly could have delivered more if given a better role. As it exists, Ladybugs is a film that perhaps tried to be a winner but is woefully taken out at the knees.
The new DVD release from Paramount is likewise an underachiever. It's another bare-bones release that delivers only the film itself without any extra material (completely dis-respectful given the two stars have both left us). The transfer itself is thankfully clean and crisp, presented in an anamorphic widescreen format framed at 1.85:1. The source print seems remarkable clean and the color levels are deep and generally true (perhaps a bit "red" when it comes to skin tones). The audio is offered in either Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround or Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo. Frankly, the 5.1 mix doesn't offer much more than its 2.0 counterpart, and while both are well balanced, neither is noteworthy.
If you happen to be a long-time fan of Dangerfield or Brandis, you'll probably find something to enjoy in Ladybugs. If you're looking for laugh-out-loud comedy, keep looking. If you have an afternoon to waste, I suppose you could waste it on this picture and perhaps get a half-smile or two in the process—or maybe just a good 90-minute nap.
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