Lionsgate has as good a collection of catalog titles as any studio out there. Many of these films have not yet been given the high definition Blu-ray treatment for one reason or another. So I’m sitting here trying to figure out how a trivial film like Ladybugs jumped the line and finds itself in a barebones release on Blu-ray this month. I’m sure that the movie has its fans. Of course, I’ve never met any of them, but I gotta believe that they’re out there … somewhere.
Don’t get me wrong. I love Rodney Dangerfield. He’s one of the few guests on Letterman who got me to be sure to schedule my DVR. I don’t get to watch such things often, because I spend a large part of my entertainment time watching films for you guys. I know. It’s a tough job, but somebody’s got to do it. Yeah, I laugh about it all the time with my friends and family who have real jobs. Usually, they don’t think that one’s so funny. Except sometimes this really is a tough job. And, you want to know what else isn’t so funny? Ladybugs. It’s a bad sign when I find myself laughing hardest at a scene where Rodney’s behind a dressing room curtain with Jonathan Brandis, and he’s sounding like a pedophile to a shopper who misunderstands what she sees and hears. When that’s the high point of any film, you’ve really gotta question the value of the kinds of things you’re watching.
The plot isn’t very original, and it’s so predictable that you can’t believe they actually paid somebody to write this stuff. I could write this stuff. I wouldn’t really want to, but I could. Rodney plays Chester, a top salesman for Mullen Industries. He’s just been revved up by one of those motivational seminars given by Steve Landesberg in an uncredited role. The theme of the seminar was basically that you’ve got to kiss your boss’s you know what. Armed with his new strategy, Chester goes to his boss to get a deserved promotion so he can marry his fiancée and let her quit her job. Somehow he ends up agreeing to coach the company-sponsored girl’s soccer team, which has a large history and trophy case of championship seasons. The problem is that Chester doesn’t know anything about the sport. He figures the champion-caliber talent will allow him to coast to his new promotion. Unfortunately, the Ladybugs are in what the pros call a rebuilding year. Only one player remains from all of those champion teams, and she rode the bench. After losing his first game and pressure mounting from the boss, Chester gets his fiancée’s son Matthew (Brandis) to don a wig and play for the team. The typical misunderstandings, sports clichés, and good intentions gone awry ensue.
The biggest problem here is a lack of an audience. The film grossed under $15 million at the box office, and anyone with half a brain could have figured out why. The film doesn’t have an audience because of a disastrous mix of film styles going on here. The typical kids’ team going from losers to winners usually targets the young audiences. It’s always about overcoming great odds and succeeding if you put your mind to it. The team girls are all young. This kind of film plays well with the kids. Unfortunately, Rodney thinks he’s in a blue film where there are only adults in the crowd. His explicit sexual banter is not something most families are going to let their kids see. Of course, you can’t really blame Rodney. Lets just say there’s a dang good reason why script writer Curtis Burch hasn’t been hired to write anything since this film in 1992. Director Sidney J. Furie is still working, but only on television and direct to video titles since Ladybugs. It also pretty much ended Rodney’s promising film career, putting him back in the nightclubs where he knocked them dead for decades until his death in 2004.
There’s another more serious tragic note associated with Ladybugs. The role of Matthew/Martha was played by Seaquest star Jonathan Brandis, who took his own life in 2003 at the incredibly young age of 26 years. The kid had some chops, and it’s a huge loss to the industry and another one of those sober cautionary tales.
Ladybugs is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1. The 1080p image is arrived at with an AVC/MPEG-4 codec at an average of 35 mbps. This is not the kind of movie that was ever going to win rave reviews for anything and that includes the image quality. It looks fine, as a dated comedy might. Colors are pretty natural. There’s certainly more detail than a film like this needs. I did discover that on close-up Rodney looks a little bit like Luca Brasi. Black levels are average. The image presentation certainly works for what it is providing a better picture than was ever necessary.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 is about as simple as they come. It might as well been a 2.0 presentation. It’s all dialog all the time.
I can only figure that there is some connection here with the latest World Cup series that brought this film out into the light of high definition. I honestly can’t figure out any other point. There was no real restoration here and no goodies to give the fans something to want to buy the disc over. It’s a forgotten film that was forgotten with good reason. The guy who decided to bring this out now on Blu-ray “has gotta be nuts”.