It doesn’t really bode well for a movie when the entirety of the plot can be gleaned after twenty seconds of watching the trailer. So a hard-nosed badass Texas Ranger played by Tommy Lee Jones is out to catch a crime boss, right? And the only available witnesses left alive are five vapid UT cheerleaders, eh? And in order to ensure their safety - the dour, dyspeptic tough-guy has to move in with them into a makeshift sorority house, right? Ok, I think I’ve got it.
Could it be that awkwardness and hilarity ensue between the buxom girls and the serious-as-hell Jones? Could it be that he and the sexy coeds clash somewhat in the manner of every single generation-gap comedy ever made? Could it be that the characters bounce off this dichotomy over and over again before learning that, gee golly, wouldn’t you know, they have something in common after all? Could it be that the girls teach Mr. Tough Texan a thing or two about having fun, give him advice on reconnecting with his estranged daughter, then help save the day in an action-packed car chase finale?
Yeah, it can be. And it was.
So Man of the House has absolutely nothing whatsoever to offer in the way of originality - that isn’t especially surprising. The movie could at least rely on its comedic merits and Jones’ charisma to get by, right? Sorry. It’s everything the preview suggested, and less. What we get is basically Sister Act starring the U.S. Marshal from The Fugitive, and every single iota of it is depressingly predictable.
Tommy Lee Jones manages to pull his weight in this lackluster yarn by employing his famous Texan drawl and scrunching his face in vexation at the antics of his feisty and attractive young charges, which on occasion elicits an emotional response just above palpable apathy. But drawls do not a movie make, nor do the ensemble efforts of the stereotyped bimbos played by Kelli Garner, Vanessa Ferlito, Monica Keena, Christina Milian, and Paula Garces, all of whom have the acting ability of a severely disabled box turtle.
It’s the writing, however, that really kills. By the time the film ends one can’t help but wonder if every conceivable cliche was utilized, and why Jones, who at least theoretically deserves better, would want to have anything to do with it. Jokes fall flat; subplots whimper and disappear; Cedric the Entertainer is underused and watered-down in his small role; and glimpses of the cheerleaders’ cleavage just aren’t enough to rouse even the slightest scrap of interest in what’s happening onscreen.
The problem here, if it hasn’t been implicit by now, isn’t that Man of the House is an awful movie. It isn’t. It just isn’t particularly interesting, funny, inventive, smart, or exciting. And yet to its credit, it doesn’t really elicit a viewer’s disgust either, unlike other certain unnamed films released recently that are so despicable as to leave an aftertaste both malignant and foul. I’m not sorry I saw this movie; I just don’t give a shit. But can that really be mentioned in its favor?
Phillip Stephens is a movie critic for Pajiba.
Man of the House / Phillip Stephens
Film Reviews | May 12, 2006 | Comments ()