Man of the House review by Mike Long

I know that some movie lovers are very open-minded and will accept films from any genre. While I try to take that stance, I often fail and find myself preferring horror and comedies over dramas and musicals. But, there are many dramatic actors -- that is, actors who appear in dramas for the most part -- whom I admire. And while I can appreciate their craft in serious films, I like to see these actors shed the somber demeanor on occasion and make a comedy. This is why I had some interest going into Man of the House, a very standard-looking comedy starring Tommy Lee Jones, one of the most stoic actors presently working.

Jones stars in Man of the House as Texas Ranger Roland Sharp. He and his partner, Maggie Swanson (Liz Vassey), are pursuing drug dealer Morgan Ball (Curtis Armstrong), a man who can provide evidence to bring down kingpin John Cortland (Turner Stephen Bruton). During their attempted capture of Ball, the criminal is shot by an unknown gunman. The only witnesses to the crime are five University of Texas cheerleaders -- Anne (Christina Milian), Teresa (Paula Garces), Evie (Monica Keena), Heather (Vanessa Ferlito), and Barb (Kelli Garner). In order to keep the investigation alive, Sharp agrees to take the girls into protective custody, by moving into the house which they all share. A very tough man who is estranged from his own daughter, Sharp has no idea how to handle five headstrong and sassy cheerleaders. He soon learns that simply living with these women may be much harder than keeping them alive.

While it's great to see Tommy Lee Jones break away from his serious roles, I'm not sure that I wanted to see him do something this light and fluffy. Man of the House is one of those films which is really difficult to critique. Technically, the film doesn't have many problems, save for some plotholes (the whole protective custody thing doesn't make much sense under close scrutiny). The film marks the first time that the University of Texas has granted a movie permission to use its logos and campus and refer to it by name. And to this respect, the movie makes great use of the Austin locations and illustrates the unique vibe which permeates Texas athletics. The movie runs a bit long at 100 minutes, but otherwise director Stephen Herek keeps things moving along quite nicely.

However, Man of the House is also so incredibly frothy, that its own wispiness works against it. The movie never digs very deep for any sort of message or special meaning -- save for the plot-point where Sharp must face the fact that he needs to spend more time with his daughter. There is very little suspense in the film, and save for one scene and the finale, the idea that the cheerleader's lives are in danger falls by the wayside. The film chooses instead to focus on how Sharp and the girls affect one another. This puts the film into the same genre as films like Uncle Buck and The Pacifier, in which an unlikely outsider has an effect on a family/group. All of the actors are very good, most notably Jones, who dry tone and craggy face make many of his lines quite humorous. The actresses playing the cheerleaders are all good and Anne Archer has a small role in the film. Cedric the Entertainer was featured prominently in the ads for Man of the House, but he isn't in the film very much and his performance has little impact on the film. A dance number, which is meant to be his big scene, pales in comparison to the dance lesson in Hitch. Man of the House has a little something to offer everyone -- nice looking cheerleaders, some mild action, and Tommy Lee Jones in what may be his most straight-forward comedic role yet. But, I can only recommend this one as a rental, because once you've seen Man of the House, you want it to leave your home immediately.

Man of the House shakes its pom-poms on DVD courtesy of Sony Pictures Home Entertainment. The DVD features both the full-frame and widescreen versions of the film. For the purposes of this review, only the widescreen version was viewed. The film has been letterboxed at 2.40:1 and the transfer is enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. The image looks fairly good, as it's sharp and clear. There is no overt grain, nor are there any noticeable defects from the source material. The movie has a very natural lighting scheme and the colors, especially that Texas orange, look very realistic. There is some mild artifacting to the image, but it won't be distracting for most viewers. The DVD carries a surprisingly good Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track which provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The surround sound effects are very good here, and this is made apparent from an explosion in the opening scene. The incidental music in the movie sounds good as well, providing a nice amount of subwoofer action.

Oddly, the Man of the House contains only two extras. "Cheer Camp" (5 minutes) is a short featurette which shows the film's five main actresses learning the cheerleading ropes from a group of professional trainers. "The Making of Man of the House" is a 10-minute featurette which examines the access which the filmmakers had to the University of Texas and contains a nice amount of behind-the-scenes footage.

5 out of 10 Jackasses

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