out of Five
Running time: 97
Lazily written comedy that's basically just an excuse to show off as much scantily-clad female flesh as possible. Not that there's anything wrong with that.
There must have been a lot of back-slapping and general merry-making over at Columbia Pictures when they came up with the idea behind Man Of The House.
"It's Tommy Lee Jones - cinema's Mr Grumpy - in a house full of semi-naked cheerleaders! And he hates it!" And so on. However, having come up with the admittedly brilliant premise, they forgot to include any decent jokes. Or a decent plot. Or, indeed, much of anything except lots and lots of shots of scantily-clad cheerleaders. Fortunately, the combined efforts of its strong cast mean that it's not a total disaster but it could and should have been a lot better.
Learning Life Lessons the Hard Way
Tommy Lee Jones stars as Roland Sharp, a tough, no-nonsense Texas Ranger assigned to protect five university cheerleaders who have witnessed a brutal murder. This involves Sharp moving into their house and -surprise!- learning Important Lessons About Life. He also manages to forge a relationship with foxy literature tutor, Molly (Anne Archer) and reconnect with his 17 year old daughter, Emma (Shannon Marie Woodward). Meanwhile, the killer/dastardly FBI agent, Brian Van Holt - in an early twist that will surprise precisely nobody - is closing in on them. Although, frankly, he doesn't really try very hard.
The main problem with the film is that the script is unforgivably sloppy.
The opening scenes set up an intriguing relationship between Sharp and his female partner (Liz Vassey) but when she gets hospitalised as the result of a shooting, Sharp doesn't even bother trying to see her. This is in spite of the script making it clear that he cares about her. Similarly, Sharp makes no attempt to find the killer or investigate the case, so the film lacks the sense of urgency it needs for the thriller element to work.
Cutting room floor
Essentially, then, the film is an excuse for Tommy Lee Jones to do his craggy hard man act in a house full of scantily-clad cheerleaders. Thankfully, there are one or two good gags and the odd witty line to offset a couple of appalling set-pieces that should have been scrapped. Namely, the excruciating rollerskating and dance-off scenes.
Saved by the casting couch
Luckily, the film is extremely well cast - the girls themselves are charming and funny, not to mention, hot as all hell. Christina Milian makes more of an impression here as the sassy squad leader than she did in Be Cool and Monica Keena (Dawson's Creek) is good as the brainy, neurotic one. The stand-out, however, is Kelli Garner (The Aviator) as Barb, the airheaded bimbo with a crush on Sharp. As for Jones, he has fun with his tough guy persona, particularly during the obligatory makeover scene and a scene where the girls use surveillance equipment to coax him through his date with Anne Archer.
Scraping the comedy barrel
You'd expect director Stephen Herek to know a thing or two about comedy, having directed Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure. Unfortunately, he appears to be on auto-pilot and the film has a surprisingly low good gag quota as a result although mercifully there is only one incidence of resorting to gross-out humour.
In short, Man Of The House is never less than watchable, thanks to its superb cast, but overall it's a disappointment. You can't help but feel that it could have been so much better. That said, if you're male, 14 and don't get out much, then there's a chance that you might think this is the greatest film you've ever seen in your life.