October 20, 2000 at 04:00 AM EDT

In The Ladies Man, Tim Meadows’ Leon Phelps, a late-night talk-radio host whose ”suave” dirty-dog patter has been shunned by every station in Chicago, lands a job interview at which he confesses, ”I have a lot of exth-perience filling other people’s slots!” There’s a casual joy to the way that Meadows delivers that line. It’s an awful sex pun made clever precisely because Meadows knows how awful it is. At a moment like that, The Ladies Man is more or less as funny as the recurring Saturday Night Live sketch from which the movie has been spun off. But there aren’t enough of those moments.

Leon, the stuck-in-the-’70s Ladies Man, with his Afro and his Courvoisier, his Mike Brady-gone-pimpin’ wardrobe, and his lazy hedonist’s stoned lisp (the sound of a man who has never, in his mind, left the hot tub at Plato’s Retreat), is no more lusty than a lot of guys, but his folly is that he thinks anatomy is love: To Leon, the way to a woman’s heart is through her butt. If The Ladies Man had plopped Leon into a tiger-striped night world as casually raunchy as he is, he might have emerged as a kind of funk-soul brother to Austin Powers. This, however, is one more case of a winning SNL character tamed by the wan, fizzled farce around him. There’s an amusingly gross soul-food-eating showdown, as well as an overemphatic turn by Will Ferrell as a repressed gay wrestling fanatic who wants to castrate Leon. By the end, the movie has done it for him. C

84 minutes
Reginald Hudlin
Tim Meadows,
Tiffani Thiessen,
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