Tommy Lee Jones as a Texas Ranger in charge of protecting a group of spirit-happy, murder-witnessing cheerleaders. That idea could write itself. So what does the film "Man of the House" (IMDb listing) come up with for an opening scene? It has Tommy Lee Jones shoulder-deep in a cow's hindquarters trying to retrieve a cell phone. Then, of course, he holds the fruit of his labor up to the camera for inspection. Wow. All that potential for an easy, breezy action comedy thrown down the tubes in the pursuit of mediocrity.
"Man of the House" isn't high art by any standards. The movie is an undemanding fish-out-of-water comedy that attempts to utilize Tommy Lee Jones's recently discovered gifts for straight-man timing. Yet, instead of Will Smith to play against, Jones is working with cheerleaders (played glowingly by Kelli Garner, Monica Keena, Paula Garces, Christina Milian, and Vanessa Ferlito). The very idea of such a pairing drives a lot of the comedy in "Man." Take this iffy premise of a hardened man surrounded by lovable girls, picture anything that comes to mind, and it's pretty much in the final film. Jones bonding with the girls while roller-skating to "Dancing Queen?" Check. Jones forced to buy tampons for his spirit squad? You bet the filmmakers didn't skip that comedic opportunity. Jones as the recipient of a colorful makeover? Of course. And these are the finest examples of what "Man" has to offer.
"Man" doesn't swing for the fences with its premise, and appears fully content to coast on insignificant comedic set pieces and goofy characters. However, there's no energy to the filmmaking, which leaves all the comedy to rot in the open air while praying for acknowledgement. Director Stephen Herek ("The Mighty Ducks," "Holy Man") wasn't the right choice for this film in the first place, and his lazy way of selling a joke, mostly hinging on Jones' exasperated reaction to the bubbly cheerleaders, is a sure way to zero laughs. Herek calls in Cedric the Entertainer to help in the comedy department, but the talented comedian is trying way too hard to make lemonade out of these lemons. In addition, his footage looks suspiciously like it was added a year after the rest of the picture was shot.
In an effort to keep the young boys placated in between shots of the half-naked cheerleaders, "Man" features an abundance of action in the film's first and third act. Much like the comedy, the thriller elements in the film are misguided, with a climatic car chase and shootout leaving the film lacking the silly mood it has worked like crazy to achieve. "Man of the House" isn't offensive, but it's a waste of time, potential, and, well, cheerleader cinema.
Filmfodder Grade: D