Some films are so bad they bring shame even to the lowly reviewer who sits through them to make a lousy nickel. Man of the House is almost, but not quite, that bad.
The premise: Tommy Lee Jones plays a Texas Ranger who goes undercover in a girls' sorority house to protect five cheerleaders who have witnessed a murder -- is about as bad a concept as has ever been approved by a studio (at least until the Deuce Bigalow sequel comes out). But a funny thing about this film (about the only funny thing) is that the actors seem to be enjoying themselves -- especially Jones, whose droll, dry persona makes this film, if not a hoot, at least not a total travesty.
That's not to say that audiences will enjoy watching Man of the House as much as the actors did making it. It's boring and downright embarrassing to watch Jones taking the girls to cheerleading practice and football games (he takes down a rival school mascot who pulls a watergun, an example of the kind of predictable gag that Jones has to rescue). As the movie wears on, he finds time to help the girls with their homework and to squire around one of the girls' professors (Anne Archer, who seems oddly content with an almost nonexistent role). Does he become a role model for the girls? Yep. Do lots of other predictable things happen? You bet.
Man of the House was shot mostly on The University of Texas campus and features plenty of Austin locations, which have been in enough films now to amount to visual clichés. I'm an Austinite, so I've seen them all. There's even a cameo from Texas' governor Rick Perry, which is sadly not unexpected (appearing in local films is an important part of the duties of the Texas governor). The local setting was handy for me as a reviewer because it allowed me to certify that almost everything in this movie is dumb and fake -- people in Austin don't really drawl like these characters or listen to Willie Nelson all the time. I say "almost," though, because Jones' elocution is actually Texan. Jones is a Texas boy, so he just has to be himself.
Cedric The Entertainer is slightly funny as an ex-con turned preacher, but did anyone think it would be funny to see him break into a cheerleading routine? This in turn inspires the cheerleaders to do a hip-hop-flavored dance routine, but at least it's short. Cedric busts out some not-so-fresh moves, then apologizes, saying he missed the '90s while he was in prison. (Which brings up something -- it's 2005 and the '90s were five years ago. Isn't it time for someone to come up with some new dance moves? Isn't it time for hip-hop to die?)
If you want action, Man of the House is a dud: a few explosions, some shooting, and one chase scene are not enough reward for sitting through the agony of watching Jones on a date or getting a makeover. If you want -- well, I can't think of any more reasons why anyone would see a movie like this. But they keep on makin' 'em. And hell, it could have been worse. That's all I'm sayin'.
Two featurettes buttress the DVD (though UT alumni will be cringing that the uniforms on the box cover are red instead of burnt orange).
Bring it on, y'all.