For as long as I can remember, studios have made movies about a kids sports team. I still remember as a little kid watching some of the really awful Bad News Bears sequels. Years later as a teenager I watched the Mighty Ducks trilogy and some other movies.
By now I think Hollywood and television have made kids sports movies involving every sport possible. One of their favorite sport seems to be soccer, because every few years a new soccer kids movie pops up. One of my personal favorites in this genre, is the 1992 Rodney Dangerfield comedy “Ladybugs.”
I will be the first person to admit that “Ladybugs” is mediocre film at best. But I can’t deny there are certain moments in this movie that always make me laugh. And I know it’s strange to see Rodney Dangerfield in what is supposed to be a family movie. But keep in mind that “Ladybugs” was rated PG-13, so this was no Disney flck.
In the movie Rodney Dangerfield plays a guy named Chester Field, a salesman at a company called Mullen Industries. Dangerfield is hoping for a promotion so he’ll have enough money to buy a house and marry his girlfriend Bess. She has a teenage son named Matthew, who doesn’t like Rodney Dangerfield very much. Matthew is a star soccer player, but he is doing terribly in school and got cut from the team. Matthew was played by the late Jonathan Brandis.
Anyways, we never find out what Mullen Industries does or what exactly Dangerfield sells for them. All we know for sure is that Mullen Industries sponsors a girl’s soccer team named the Ladybugs, and Dangerfield’s Boss, Mr. Mullen, is married to a woman who will only sleep with him if he turns the Ladybugs into a winning team because their daughter is on the team.
Dangerfield doesn’t get the promotion, but when he learns that the Ladybugs need a new coach, he sees an opportunity to get in his boss’ good graces. Dangerfield lies and says he is great at soccer and appoints him the team’s new coach. Soon, Dangerfield and his assistant, Jackée discover that the Ladybugs are a ragtag team of girls who have never played soccer before.
With few options left, Rodney Dangerfield turns to his future step son Matthew. He puts a bad wig on him, calls him Martha and puts him on the team. Matthew is initially hesitant, , but agrees when he realizes that the girl of his dreams, Kimberly Mullen, (Vinessa Shaw), is also on the team. She also happens to be Mr. Mullen’s daughter, so Dangerfield tries to impress her too.
By the way, the sequence where Matthew finds out Kimberly is on the team sees the teenage Vinessa Shaw in a polka dot bikini running towards him in slow motion. We them see their dream relationship which wraps un their wedding. I will admit this was one of the scenes I liked as a teenage boy.
The rest of the film is pretty straight forward: Matthew helps the team win; Rodney Dangerfield bonds with the girls on team; he and Matthew become friends; Matthew’s mom finds out what going on and gets mad; and Jackée makes some sassy comments about a variety of subjects.
As I wrote earlier, I’ll be the first the admit “Ladybugs” is mediocre at best. Some of the gags are silly, and have been done before. And much of the movie is a series of set-ups for Dangerfield’s punch-lines, some of which are very good, while others came off as dated even in 1992.
However, I do like the fact that Dangerfield’s character becomes a good coach eventually, and he comes to really care for the girls on the team. I also enjoyed watching his relationship with Matthew grow over time, and how they ended up helping each other through a tough time.
One more thing I like about “Ladybugs” is how over the course of the movie, the main characters all come to realize that their relationships are more important than winning any soccer game. And for these reasons, I will always be a fan of “Ladybugs.”