Plot: Chester (Rodney Dangerfield) is a hard worker, but he can’t seem to get a break and a chance to climb the corporate ladder. After years of hoping hard work and dedication would be enough, he has decided to do things the old fashioned way, kiss up to the boss and hope it pays off. He does catch the boss’ attention and is asked to take on a special assignment, just not the one he hoped. Chester is asked to take over as coach on the boss’ daughter’s soccer team and while he knows nothing about the sport, he agrees in order to make a good impression. Soon he discovers the team is horrible and under pressure from his boss to turn things around, Chester reaches out to his stepson Matthew (Jonathan Brandis), who happens to a soccer whiz. But when even Matthew can’t turn the girls into a winning team, Chester decides to put Matthew on the field, under a new name…and a wig.
Entertainment Value: This is a premise that has been done countless times, a sports team that has to overcome the odds and lack of talent, under the leadership of an unexpected mentor. No real surprises here, as the narrative follows the well established formula of the genre, but Ladybugs works better than it should, thanks to the presence of Rodney Dangerfield. I don’t think he is the first comic to come to mind if you think about a family oriented comedy, but he makes it work and proves his unique brand of humor can appeal to all ages. Of course, the jokes still feature some elements aimed at the adults in the crowd, but they’ll sail right over the heads of younger viewers, who will appreciate the slapstick and colorful child actors. There’s also a light teen romance involved, but again, it is all by the numbers in Ladybugs, so while it is a fun ride, don’t expect any fresh or unexpected twists. The pace is on the mark however and the entire movie feels brisk, so there’s no slow or dull stretches here. So yes, we have seen this all before, but now we can see it with Dangerfield in the middle of it all.
This one is designed to showcase the talents of Rodney Dangerfield and he delivers, with a consistently hilarious performance. As I said above, he is not often in this kind of family friendly environment and he adjusts well to the limitations, while staying true to his signature style of humor. Not a simple task, but Dangerfield nails the role and it is a lot of fun to watch. His interactions with Jonathan Brandis are effective and play off his “no respect” gimmick well, which is good news for fans. The young actors who make up the soccer team are solid too, in rather colorful, if minor roles. Brandis’ love interest is Vinessa Shaw and she’s a capable teen romantic, while Jackee Harris provides our lead with someone to fire jokes off with. While he works well with the supporting cast and the others are in good form, it is Dangerfield who runs the show in Ladybugs and the movie is all about his unique brand of comic entertainment. So for fans of Dangerfield, the well worn tropes of the genre pack a humorous punch in this one. If you appreciate his sense of humor or the scrappy underdog sports genre, Ladybugs is a fun watch with some memorable sequences.