Ladybugs (1992)

Soccer film gets plenty of respect

Summer will soon be officially over for another year, which means the end of typical summertime activities like barbeques, going to the beach, and participating in sports like baseball and soccer. As far as soccer goes, I say good riddance.

Soccer may be the world’s most popular sport, but the Cinema Connoisseur cannot be counted as one of its fans. How many goals were scored in this summer’s World Cup – 12? 13?

The only thing I find odder than someone being a soccer fan is someone pretending to be a soccer fan. Every four years, people go crazy at World Cup time. Attaching flags to their car, honking horns, shouting “their” team name out of car windows after a victory. It was even worse this year thanks to the growth of social networking. Every jackass with a keyboard took the opportunity to pontificate about Honduras’ chances of taking the whole thing.

Here’s my World Cup prediction: 99 per cent of these “fans” won’t give soccer a second thought until the summer of 2014. In North America, soccer ratings fall short of the ones garnered by professional rodeo and the national spelling bee. Maybe I should ride down Richmond Street, roll down the window, honk and shout out the name of the 2010 spelling champion – “Anamika Veeramani! V-e-er- a-m-a-n-i!”

Yes, nothing short of the involvement of legendary comedian Rodney Dangerfield or a crossdressing storyline could get me interested in soccer. Luckily this week’s film has both.

Ladybugs posterIn Ladybugs, late comedian Rodney Dangerfield stars as Chester Lee, a man who is desperate for a promotion. When he finds out the company he works for sponsors a girl’s soccer team, Chester boasts about his fictional accomplishments on the field, and ends up coaching the team, known as the Ladybugs.

Needless to say, the team is quite bad when he takes over. I can’t think of a single sports movie where a coach took over a successful team. It’s never “Here you go, meet your New York Yankees,” it’s always “the kid in the wheelchair is our third baseman.”

In order to please his boss by turning the Ladybugs into a winning team, Chester recruits a new player to join the team – Matthew, his girlfriend’s teenage son. Matthew doesn’t initially jump for joy at the prospect of posing as a young lady, but when he meets Ladybug player and potential love interest Kimberley, he quickly dons a wig and becomes Martha.

The premise for the film may seem a tad silly, but some terrific performances ensure the film is one to be taken seriously. Rodney Dangerfield is brilliant, as always. Rodney was famous for saying “I get no respect.” Well, he gets plenty of respect from this reviewer. Sadly this was one of Dangerfield’s final roles before his passing in 2004.

Jonathan Brandis was also quite good in the challenging dual roles of Matthew and Martha. Brandis was quite the teen idol in the 1990s – he was sort of the Justin Bieber of his day – except with talent. Like Dangerfield, Brandis is also no longer with us. I often sit back and smile, thinking of the two of them up in heaven, acting out scenes from Ladybugs while a captivated Jesus looks on.

Despite my disdain for soccer, I still wholeheartedly recommend this film. Dangerfield is a fantastic performer, and writer Curtis Burch’s script was so packed with wall-to-wall laughter that I was able to temporarily put aside my soccer prejudice.

I wasn’t the only one who loved it either. Ladybugs was a box office smash in 1992, earning almost $15 million dollars – that’s million, not thousand! In fact, it held the distinction of being the highest grossing transvestite soccer film of all-time, until the release of the 2006 Amanda Byne’s film She’s The Man. If you ask me, it’s a crying shame that the World Cup comes along every four years, yet we have to wait fourteen years in between teenage crossdressing soccer comedies.


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