Y'know, for a guy who worried all the time about why he wasn't getting any respect, Rodney Dangerfield sure didn't spend a lot of time trying to earn any respect.
I'm referring to 90% of the guy's movie work and not at all to his stand-up career. Because there are very few comedians out there who can even come close to the timing and the schtick that Dangerfield doled out. With a microphone in his hand, the guy was a genius. On a movie set, eh, kind of a mixed bag.
The '80s started out pretty well for Rodney, cinema-wise. He delivered some great laughs in the Caddyshack ensemble before anchoring the cult classic Easy Money, and followed that up with the now-beloved Back to School. Three for three, pretty impressive. But, aside from a stunningly memorable performance in Oliver Stone's Natural Born Killers, that was pretty much it for "the good side" of Dangerfield's movie career.
The bad side is a special kind of painful. Late in his career, Dangerfield signed on for a series of outrageously cheap and infantile flicks. It started with the seriously obnoxious Meet Wally Sparks and continued on through The Godson, My 5 Wives, Back By Midnight, and The 4th Tenor. If you can find anything nice to say about these flicks, then you're clearly a bigger Dangerfield fan than I am.
But back in 1992, after all the "good movies" but well before the truly rotten ones, Dangerfield decided to try his hand at a kid-friendly sports comedy. To say it was a discordant pairing would be a stunning example of understatement. A guy best known for insult humor, raunchy rejoinders, and borscht-belt banter ... in a kid's flick about soccer. C'mon.
The premise is straight out of Hanna-Barbera: Chester Lee (Dangerfield) is a salesman schlub who wants to marry his girlfriend, but can't afford to do so on his current salary, so he goes into the office of his jerk boss and asks for a promotion, but instead the guy puts Chester in charge of the company-sponsored soccer team. Of young girls. And they stink.
So it's The Bad News Bears all over again, this time with a whole bunch of Rodney Dangerfield's oldest and hairiest one-liners. (As I watched Ladybugs for the first time, I recognized at least a third of Rodney's jokes, only here they're delivered flatly, and in service of a plot in which they don't belong.)
And just when things get too painful to bear, Ladybugs switches tracks to involve Tootsie-like pre-teen cross-dressing. Also, Jackee Harry is the one asked to play "wise-cracking sidekick," and boy was that not a great idea.
So on and on it goes with the cross-dressing teen junk and the gradually improving team crap. The boss continues to be an insufferable jerk. Dangerfield keeps dropping only the corniest barbs imaginable at the screen and desperately mugging in his fish-eyed fashion. And then it ends, with maybe three half-hearted chuckles as its total cargo. And when the thing tries to get cuddly & sweet ... yikes.
Video: Paramount gives the catalog title a rather impressive anamorphic widescreen (1.85:1) transfer. I still say the movie's crap, but at least the studio made it look nice for those who happen to like it.
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1 or 2.0, which is just as good as you'd expect. Nothing stellar, but well-balanced and clear all the way. English subtitles are available.
The flick feels like the pilot episode for a sitcom that never even came close to getting picked up for a full season. Only it's three times longer than a sitcom pilot, and (easily) three times as painful to sit through.