Man of the House (review)

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The Passion of Tommy Lee Jones

If you’ve ever dreamed of the many ways in which, say, rugged tough guy Tommy Lee Jones could be emasculated, your dream has come true. Confrontation with yards of lacy, sexy lingerie hanging in the shower? Check. Confusion in the “feminine products” aisle of the supermarket? Oh, you know it.
The truly scary thing about Man of the House is that this isn’t just a paycheck for Tommy Lee Jones — no, he’s an executive producer as well. This is a project he believes in. By the time his hardass, no-nonsense Texas Ranger is subjected to a makeover and manicure at the hands of five Barbie-doll cheerleaders, one begins to wonder exactly what Jones has done to believe his soul requires the scouring power of a Mel Gibson-style self-flagellation. There’s a kind of cheesy-50s-horror horror to what Jones suffers, karmic retribution for some horrendous crime of which we are unaware (c’mon: Double Jeopardy wasn’t that bad). Instead of becoming an irradiated mutant to atone for America’s unleashing of the Bomb upon humanity, or being devoured by a giant rampaging bunny rabbit to metaphorically beg the pardon of the entire natural world for our raping of the planet, he is forced to bunk down with a gaggle of bubble-headed, enormous-breasted fembots — while simultaneously exhibiting no sexual desire for them whatsoever — for… what? What sin could a man commit in a single lifetime to bring this upon himself? </Amazing Colossal Man>

Frankly, I’ve never understood why any redblooded heterosexual man should be unmanned by a sneaky peek at brassieres and panties and other articles of naughty underthings — don’t guys live for that? — but this seems to be movie shorthand for “embarrassing intimacy guaranteed to make a man uncomfortable.” And shorthand is everything this prefab sitcom is about: throw a rough-edged over-the-hill cop in with the Stereotype She-Squad and watch them all fool nosy Mr. Roper! Can this wacky gang of misfits share fabulous off-campus housing without driving each other crazy? There’s that joke about the ultimate “high-concept” movie being described thus: “He’s the pope. She’s a chimp. They’re cops!” Man of the House makes me suspect that we’re but a single shuffle of studio executives away from Banana Nights: Rome.

Look, this is a movie that starts with a cell-phone enema for a cow and goes downhill from there; it’s hard to imagine that things could get worse for Jones than being required to put his entire arm up a cow’s rectum, but then he has to ask ostensibly grown women to spit out their gum and explain what the term “Western civilization” means to the “smart” pre-med cheerleader with a 4.0 average. (Honey, that’s as in “end of,” which is what this movie represents.) He has to act all paternal and tell them to cover up so they don’t look like streetwalkers, which is sort of like throwing lemon juice on Jones’s back, already ripped to shreds from his self-mortification, because director Stephen Herek (Rock Star, 101 Dalmatians) takes a particular glee in being as salacious as possible with these dimwitted but bodacious babes, ensuring that we miss nary an almost-bared bosom or pierced navel, or — my favorite part — the girls’ fondling of their own bodies. And after all that, the movie still wants to be inspiring, in a deep, meaningful, soulful, spiritual sense — cheerleading is, like, important and stuff! It may not have been true before, but it is now: now Jones (The Missing, The Hunted) deserves severe punishment.

There is a reason why Jones’s Ranger is thrown in with the three idiot blondes, one saucy Hispanic, and one serious brunette — they’re cheerleaders! — but the movie seems to forget it for the looong stretches during which Jones is preoccupied with shaking his head at soy milk and Clairol disasters and whether to get the Stayfree with the wings or not. The morons witnessed a murder and Jones is “protecting” them, though from what we don’t know until much later, when the movie decides it had better at least pay lip service to the putative reason for its own existence — the last ten minutes of the movie crams in explosions, car chases, gunshots, et cetera. Frankly, it’s not such a bad thing that the hoard of screenwriters left out all that tedious “story” — like the motivations of the bad guys… and the good guys, come to think of it — because this is trial enough without it. I can’t bear to think of a two-and-a-half-hour version of Man of the HouseI haven’t committed any sin that bad.

And no one — no one — has done anything evil enough to warrant exposure to the unnecessary interlude in which Cedric the Entertainer (Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events, Barbershop 2: Back in Business) engages in a cheer competition with the fembots. All it does is prove that the “the Entertainer” part of his name is false advertising, like saying Bob Saget the Comedian, Ashlee Simpson the Singer, or Rob Schneider the Actor.

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