Man of the House

As inevitable as a Lance Bass VH1 Where Are They Now special, Man of the House pits hound dog-faced Tommy Lee Jones against a gaggle of perky Texas cheerleaders. It was only a matter of time before Jones joined the fish out of water club, and his gruff, no-nonsense attitude is the perfect counterbalance to the pom-pom mentality of a quintet of sequined sirens.

Too bad Man of the House plays like an overextended last season episode of Charlie’s Angels, a turkey masquerading as a peacock. This flip-side of Miss Congeniality finds Jones playing a cranky Texas Ranger assigned to protect a squad of cheerleaders after they witness a murder. That means becoming their surrogate den mother, moving into their digs and pretending to be a member of their team.

Okay, so far, so good, Grumpy Old Man meets Bring It On, with a side order of slaphappy suspense, but as dished up by five writers and served by director Stephen Herek, Man of the House becomes a Mulligan’s Stew of missed opportunities. I bet if you put one-hundred cheerleaders in a room with a typewriter they would come up with a better movie than this.

In order for Man of the House to work on such a superficial level, the writers use character shorthand, creating types that are instantly and easily recognizable. Jones is best as the grizzled veteran who is uncomfortable with his latest assignment and finds it beneath him. His disdain is evident in every weary stare, yet it comes as no surprise when he finally warms up to his charges.

Fortunately for Roland Sharp (Jones) and the audience, the cheerleaders are so generic they don’t need names. You could identify them from the basket of the Goodyear blimp. There’s the dense blonde, the hot Latina, the snooty white chick, the street smart Italian, and the black girl with all the right moves. They’ve got spirit, yes they do, they’ve got spirit, how about you?

Not really. None of the girls are fleshed out enough to make us care about their fate, and quite honestly, would the world really be worse off without five less cheerleaders? Ouch! Here comes the hate mail.

As mindless entertainment, Man of the House fits the bill. It’s not clever enough to be funny in an original way, and it’s not suspenseful enough to make up for not being funny. Anne Archer has some nice moments as Jones’ love interest, a small glimmer of earnestness in a film that idles on over-the-top. How else do you explain Cedric the Entertainer’s former con-turned-minister who has more spirit than all the girls combined?

Sis! Boom! Wretch!


Tommy Lee Jones, Cedric The Entertainer, Anne Archer. Directed by Stephen Herek. Rated PG-13.


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