Directed by: Stephen Herek
Starring: Tommy Lee Jones, Anne Archer, Cedric the Entertainer
The first scene in Man of the House involves wild man Cedric the Entertainer and some very gross interaction with cow poop. I'm stupefied to report that my husband and every other man in the audience found this bit of dramatic conflict to be uproarious. At least I was immediately prepared for the possibility that this was going to be one of those low-level guy flicks that Ken Hanke is so fond of sticking me with.
Yes, Man was dumb. But the movie also ended up being sweet, charming and funny in a weird, lightweight way. It's not as good a date movie as Hitch or Meet the Fockers, but Man is certainly worthwhile if you catch it at the bargain matinee.
Fifty-nine-year-old Tommy Lee Jones (The Missing) plays Texas Ranger Roland Sharp, who still struts and barks like a cocky young B-movie cop. Truth is, he's got a mushy emotional interior that wants to be closer to both his estranged college-student daughter, Emma (Shannon Marie Woodward, making a promising film debut), and attractive English lit professor Molly, played by luminous baby-boomer Anne Archer (whose Mojave Moon is one of the most under-recognized gems of the late '90s). These endearing distaff touchstones make Sharp an acceptable female-friendly tough guy, despite all the nubile near-nakedness that jiggles around him for most of the movie.
Five giggly cheerleaders for the Longhorns at Texas University at Austin witness a violent contract killing. Despite their inability to chew bubble gum without smacking it, the young women are needed to testify. So Ranger Sharp moves into their group home to protect them 24/7 until their court date. Yep, pretty ridiculous, but the plot does have seeds of hilarity.
Unlike all the other men in the movie, Sharp insists that the women dress modestly in his presence. "I do not jest, or joke, or quip," he warns them, remaining impervious to their practiced cuteness. He tortures their diet-addicted brains by scarfing down aromatic pizza in front of them. He makes them study (education -- what's that?), stop using their cell phones (what, no phone sex?), and turn down the blaring music (eek, how uncivilized!).
Getting clueless guys into shape seems to be the trend in movies this year, a la Hitch. In Man, when Sharp invites Molly to dinner for his five-alarm chili special, the five house-bound sex experts cheer him on and trim, clip, groom and broom him into acceptable romance material. (Guys, take note, there is a cure for those hairy nostrils.)
The women work hard to convince Sharp of the cosmic importance cheerleaders have in the universe of college football. Anybody can motivate you when you're up, they explain, but only women of true and dedicated cheering spirit can "inspire you when you're down." To keep the young women's cover, Sharp must take a job as assistant cheerleading coach. Through their sheer pluckiness, as well as by driving a speeding bus, foiling the bad guy, and saving Sharp's life, the gals convince him to "sponsor, support and celebrate the jobs of cheerleaders."
For all you gals over 30 whose husbands want to drag you to this movie, don't complain too much. Sharp's relationship with Molly puts all the cheerleader silliness into perspective. "Why would a man want to be with a girl," Sharp growls, "when he could be with a woman?" Rated PG-13 for violence, sexual content, crude humor and a drug reference.
-- reviewed by Marci Miller