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|Man of the House|
|R E V I E W B Y R I C H C L I N E||
dir Stephen Herek|
scr Robert Ramsey, Matthew Stone, John J McLaughlin
with Tommy Lee Jones, Anne Archer, Cedric the Entertainer, Brian Van Holt, Christina Milian, Kelli Garner, Monica Keena, Paula Garcés, Vanessa Ferlito, Shannon Marie Woodward, R Lee Ermey, Curtis Armstrong
release US 25.Feb.05, UK 8.Apr.05
05/US Columbia 1h37
Cheer up: Jones, Milian and friends
Despite a strong cast and a potentially engaging premise, the few moments of sharp humour in this film just aren't quite enough to make it work. The filmmakers keep making the most hackneyed jokes and approaching the material from the most sexist angles. It really wears you down.
Texas Ranger Roland Sharp (Jones) is assigned to protect a group of five cheerleaders who witnessed a brutal killing. But they refuse to take the situation seriously, and draw Sharp into university life, including a budding romance with their literature professor (Archer) and Important Life Lessons about how to deal with his 17-year-old daughter (Woodward). Meanwhile, the bad guy (Van Holt) is closing in on them.
The plot is the basic connect-the-dots thing, without a single surprise. So it's up to the cast to inject some life into the film. And they certainly try! The cheerleaders-in-peril gang are quite funny--charming, endearing, smart and tough, with Milian as their sassy leader, Garner as the airhead bimbo, Keena as the brainy blonde, Garcés missing her (unseen) boyfriend and Ferlito as the rebel. These are the worst kind of stereotypes, but the cast underplay them as much as they can, and it works. Comic relief is provided by Cedric's ex-con/ex-cheerleader minister. And at the centre of the storm Jones plays it just a bit too straight--grimacing and growling through most scenes, even though the film's high points are the moments when he smiles and cracks a joke.
Herek knows his way around an irreverent comedy (Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure, Rock Star), and the problem is that this film is simply not irreverent enough. The comedy is played for the most obvious laughs--bland, cliched, unoriginal--while the rest is an uneven mix of grisly violence, voyeuristic camera work and silly set pieces (the requisite makeover, a preposterous skating sequence). Who's it aimed at anyway? So when a rare zinger leaps out and makes us laugh, we realise what an enjoyable film this should have been.
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