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Man of the House Movie Review

originally posted many years ago

In Man of the House, Tommy Lee Jones plays a tough-as-nails Texas Ranger with a heart of gold who finds himself babysitting a house full of sexy cheerleaders. As I type this, I realize that I don't need to write this review—a one-line description of Man of the House speaks for itself. This movie has the silliest premise ever, and the filmmakers have neither the talent to make it work nor the common sense to realize they're tinkering with a lost cause. Everything about this intensely strange comedy points toward failure, and I have no pity for the actors, writers and director who couldn't see disaster coming.

Well, I feel a little sorry for Tommy Lee Jones, an actor who can do no wrong in my eyes. Jones is one of the most untouchable guys in the business—you just can't dislike him. You're always absorbed by his immense talent, or at least that gentlemanly twinkle he has about him. He's so natural and strong and confident on camera that he always succeeds even when his movies fail. Man of the House is no exception—Jones plays a tired, grumpy, and essentially unlikable character, but he plays it with class and a wicked sense of humor. Actually, Jones is just about the only funny person in this movie—everyone else is either on autopilot, trying too hard, or not trying hard enough. And while Jones' twinkle hasn't faded, Man of the House is so messy that we hardly ever notice it.

It's pretty evident early on that the audience isn't going to like Jones' character, Roland Sharp. He's a good crime-fighter, sure, a credit to the Texas Rangers, but he's so surly and curt with everybody that it hardly matters. Yeah, he saves a few people from a burning building in the film's opening, but when his partner is shot in the chest, he barely bats an eye. Of course, the movie is eager to remind us that Roland has an estranged daughter, whom he loves dearly but hasn't the courage to tell her so, but the daughter feels like a contrivance instead of a bright side to Roland's character. The daughter is a cheap device to make Roland look good, and she rarely, if ever, makes us sympathize with Roland.

Anyway, that's not the point. Point is, a murder has been committed, and a group of teenage cheerleaders are the only witnesses. However, the murderer hasn't been caught, and until he is, the girls are in danger. So, the Rangers send the girls to a suburban house to lie low for a while, with Roland as their sole protection. And boy, is he protective. Roland lays down the ground rules on the first day—no visitors ever, no cell phones, pagers or e-mail, no leaving the house unescorted, no "suggestive" clothing in the house (so that Roland's assistants won't be tempted). Basically, no fun, no moving, no breathing allowed. Needless to say, these rules don't sit well with a half dozen teenage girls. They whine, they complain, they even try to break out, but Roland runs a ridiculously tight ship. "Are you always this big of a dick?" asks one of the girls. Roland's response shouldn't surprise you.

A lot of the comedy in Man of the House focuses on the obvious divide between grumpy old men and free-spirited teens. There's a scene where Roland walks into a bathroom, and is shocked—shocked—to find lacy underwear hanging from the shower. There's plenty of moments where Roland bellows, "Turn that blasted music down!" In the movie's most annoying sequence, the girls squeal and chatter as they perform a full make-over on a very scared Roland, who is preparing for a date. Oh, and it's all supposed to be very funny, but it really isn't, since none of these gags are fresh or particularly clever. When you look at it, these scenes are the bare minimum of what the writers could have done with this concept—it's as though they all took an oath to stay the course of predictable formula.

Only once does Man of the House stray from the path and, sure enough, it's the only scene in the movie that works. It takes place at a football game, where Roland is undercover as a cheerleading coach. It's an unexpected moment that involves a goofily dressed team mascot, a deceiving water pistol, and the best usage of a stadium "JumboTron" in recent memory.

Thank God Tommy Lee Jones was cast in this movie, because I don't know what I would've done without him. The rest of this cast is so bad, that it's hardly worth mentioning them. All of the girls who play the cheerleaders (including R&B star, Christina Milian) are incredibly beautiful, certainly, but they couldn't act their way out of a paper bag (or, apparently, wear anything that provides more body coverage than a paper bag). Cedric the Entertainer is off too—he isn't his usual funny self in this one. As an overzealous Baptist preacher/ex-con, Cedric annoys more than he entertains.

Man of the House isn't even worth Tommy Lee Jones' dry humor, or the cheerleaders' very oogle-able figures. It's stupid, lazy entertainment that was doomed the moment the writers put ink to paper. But, of course, you already knew that.

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