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Man of the House (2005)

Cheer Up (working title)

Protecting witnesses is a challenge. Living with them is impossible.

Directed by:

Stephen Herek

Rating: 3/10

Running Time: 97 minutes

US Certificate: PG-13 UK Certificate: 12a

There is no shortage of comedy capers in which investigative cops go undercover to solve a crime, only to find themselves drawn into the world that they at first merely pretended to join – and not one of them is much cop as a film. ‘Man of the House’, taking a middle-aged, chisel-jawed Texas Ranger into a house full of college cheerleaders with Hollywood’s idea of hilarious consequences, joins ‘Kindergarten Cop’, Miss Congeniality, ‘Big Momma’s House’ and White Chicks as the latest film in this most underwhelming of fish-out-of-water subgenres. Yet far from raising the bar, ‘Man of the House’ will just have you wishing you were in one. Nor does it do much to advance the cheerleading genre – for it is like the teen comedy of ‘Bring It On’ (2000) with unwanted built-in adult supervision, or like the pornographic highjinks of ‘Debbie Does Dallas’ (1978) without the, er, pornographic highjinks. In fact, it is a film so relentlessly average that it ends up seeming below average just through sheer lack of effort.

Uptight Texas Ranger Roland Sharp (Tommy Lee Jones) is assigned to pose as an assistant coach and protect five University of Texas cheerleaders who are the sole material witnesses in the shooting of an important informant. He soon becomes a father figure to the girls, while they help him to date English Professor Molly McCarthy (Anne Archer) and to reconnect with his estranged daughter Emma (Shannon Marie Woodward) – and all join forces to stop crooked FBI agent Eddie Zane (Brian Van Holt) from raining on their pom-pom parade.

It is easy to see why this film has cast Tommy Lee Jones as the straight-talking, straight-shooting Sharp – for this is after all a rôle that he perfected as long ago as ‘The Fugitive’ (1993). What is harder to understand is why Jones would subject himself to self-parody in such a dumbed-down context – for when, in the opening sequence, he is seen shoving his arm deep into a cow’s rearend, it is hard to escape the impression that he is doing something similar to his whole career. Anne Archer too should know better – far from dignifying the film with her presence, she does a disservice to herself by appearing in such flaky nonsense. Cedric the Entertainer, as ex-con turned preacher Percy Stevens, earns the questionable distinction of appearing in all the film’s most cringe-makingly unfunny scenes, including the truly awful coda (a spoof of the gospel sequence from ‘The Blues Brothers’ that somehow forgets to include any laughs). Only Christina Milian, as the deepthinking (for a cheerleader) Anne, emerges with any of her reputation intact – even if her character hardly seems to have a proper place in the film.

So if Tommy Lee Jones looks jaded, weary and irritable for most of ‘Man of the House’, at least he can claim just to be in character. These responses in the viewer, however, will be no act.

It's Got: The line "Youre going to have to prise the pom-poms from our cold, dead hands".

It Needs: To be different in just about every respect.

Alternatives:

Big Mommas House, Kindergarten Cop, Miss Congeniality, White Chicks

Summary

Imagine 'Debbie Does Dallas' without the pornography, and you'll have an idea of the gruelling emptiness of this cop-meets-cheerleader comedy.

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