Man of the House
December 1, 2005
Gruff Texas Ranger Tommy Lee Jones winds up babysitting five cheerleaders when they witness a murder. Shenanigans ensue.
Pre-Men in Black, if you mentioned that Tommy Lee Jones was about to take a dip in the comedy pool you might have caused a friend to choke on their overpriced popcorn. With the help of veterans Will Smith and Barry Sonnenfeld the result was a surprising success. Sadly it seems to have gone to Jones’s head as here he ditches much of his deadpan humour to try and…be funny. Man of the House (or “Cheer Up” to name its original title) bombed in the States despite the (normally) talented line-up that includes director Stephen Herek and R. Lee Ermey.
The problem is that Man of the House is a one-joke movie. Grumpy old lawman Roland Sharp moves in with perky cheerleaders. Ha ha ha. And that took all of five seconds to tell, so a ninety-minute movie is pushing it. There are numerous shots of the buxom girls in motion and things tend to blow up a lot, but amazingly it’s still rather boring. Any sense of impending danger is destroyed so early on by revealing the double agent that you simply wait for the guy to show up and try to kill the girls. As a sub-plot Sharp gets a date with a teacher whilst posing as a cheer coach, and enlists the feminine knowledge of the cheerleaders to get through his first date in decades. Needless to say he’s really cuddly underneath and simply needs to tell his estranged daughter he loves her to win her back. Somebody call William Goldman and tell him he’s out of a job.
But before you throw the DVD out the window like a hot…DVD, there is some mindless fun to be had. Sharp’s taste for pizza creates a conflict for the girls and their strict diet, and when he gets sick of them wandering about the house in next to nothing (as if!) he buys a giant air-conditioner so they have to dress in wooly coats. There’s also an amusingly dodgy theme about Sharp’s fellow agents repeatedly thanking him for putting them on this assignment (basically to perve on the girls), but as with the one-dimensional cheerleader characters this is never really explored and always sticks to safe conventions. This is Miss Congeniality for blokes.
Comedies don’t have to stick to reality but some things just smack of laziness: a character supposedly hides a mobile phone up a cow’s behind but his arms are spotless. Cut to Jones sticking his arm up to his shoulder in shit to retrieve said phone. And if Sharp is supposed to be undercover as a coach at the school why do we never see him do anything but lounge around the house? The less said about Cedric The Entertainer (liar) and his utterly pointless and annoying crim-on-the-rebound shtick the better.
Donnie Darko and Pleasantville showed you could make an intelligent teen movie, so why do we have to put up with this? It’ll draw a couple of chuckles and the male audience will be kept quiet for a while by the pretty girls on show but sadly that’s all to recommend it. You’d expect more from Stephen Herek, especially since he gave us one of the defining teen movies of the nineties in Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure. At least that movie is about to be released as a special edition, so hey, cheer up.
Pretty anorexic (pun intended). The Cheer Camp Featurette is just an excuse to see the girls do some gymnastics (arousing, but again hardly for the Stephen Hawking generation) and the making of is a big tourism poster for the state of Texas (Tommy Lee Jones’ home state would you believe!). Aye Carumba.