Man Of The House Review
Man Of The House reads like wanton commercial MTV-generation pulp made for pubescent teenagers looking for nothing more that the simple stimulations of gun shots, car chases, jokes about the rectal excretions of cows, and the ‘tits and arse’ excitement of any cheerleading troupe. In serious cinema Hollywood, this is the childish mischief maker, a film that simply wants to please on the most basic of primal levels and for the most basic of undemanding minds. Director Stephen Herek’s film is then, something with little pretences, a film that simply slips into the saturated market of youth-targeted mainstream cinema; that while having very little under its thin surface, delivers what it says on the tin.
Tommy Lee Jones plays Texas Ranger Roland Sharp who loses a key witness when a gun battle with police gets out of hand and discovers that the only people who saw the murder take place were a group of cheerleaders. Needing to make sure the same fate doesn’t happen upon the five pom-pom swingers, Sharp moves into the house the girls share, with his team and keeps them under constant surveillance. Obviously, the ditzy chicks aren’t too keen on Sharp’s serious and strict mentality, but while the two camps seem world’s apart (and a few decades by the looks of things) it seems the tough-old cop might just be the cure the girls need to get ahead in the world, while the young-innocence of the cheerleaders might just be the warm-hearted touch Sharp needs to finally have a meaningful relationship with his daughter, and maybe find someone to love.
When you think what Man Of The House is about you realise there’s very little too it – the plot is almost non-existent as the film motors along on very thin material which never really engages the viewer. Admittedly, there’s some lovely moments between one of the cheerleaders Heather (Vanessa Ferlito) and Sharp when the distinction between brutality in the face of upholding the law and brutality itself is questioned, and they discuss Sharp’s relationship with his daughter; and there’s some inspired comedic moments such as Sharp having to do the shopping for the girls and getting stuck in the women’s hygiene section of the supermarket not knowing which type of sanitary towel to buy, and when the girls watch Sharp on a date through the surveillance camera, telling him through a secret ear piece what to do and say. Indeed, what is good about the film is its embracing of the stereotypical ‘airhead’ female college girls and the old-guy whose archaic view of modern day youth culture only pronounces his age and his wrinkles. The film works best when it plays on these ideas but there’s a feeling that the best scenes are simply skits fitted into a film narrative, and that ultimately, this fish-out-of-water tale is a story that has been told many times by better movies.
The back story as to why the girls have to be protected is only merely hinted at throughout the film, and the sub-plot about a corrupt F.B.I agent whose trying to track them down is simply extraneous. The film could have worked much better had the principle fish-out-of-water idea been supplanted into a better, more fitting story. Its wrong-doings are simply its high-concept constraints, but it is infuriating when the material is there but hidden by a directionless narrative and sub-par scripting. Director Herek has proved in the past that he has an ability to make thin-material appear to have a little more texture in The Mighty Ducks and Don’t Tell Mom The Babysitter’s Dead, but perhaps the script here was just too ham-fisted.
Yet there’s still something quite alluring with Man Of The House and it’s down to the performances. The cheerleaders Heather (Ferlito) and Barb (Kelli Garner) are both excellent, especially Barb who falls for Sharp, but there’s a genuine likeness in all of them as they quite happily play-out the very stereotypes that define them. But Tommy Lee Jones yet again proves he has a penchant for deadpan comedy as he’s wonderful in the role, fitting perfectly into the straight-faced character that juxtaposes the loud energy and teen neuroses of the five girls.
Man Of The House is as easy as it is hard to watch in that for all its simple guilty pleasures, it remains an infuriating missed-opportunity. There’s some great little comedy moments but the decidedly thin-material is far too damning and the film cannot escape the confines of the dumb cinema it believes its target-audience are after.
The film is presented in its original theatrical aspect ratio of 2.35:1 and anamorphic enhanced. I thought the image looked fantastic throughout, certainly looking like the very recent film that it is. Colours and skin-tones were superb, both in their vibrancy and their depth and clarity, and sharp detail was constantly present. The DVD handles the action sequences nicely, and has no problems during night time scenes and darker photography.
The film is presented in a very good Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound track that has excellent bass response and good directional separation for the dialogue. The action scenes fill the speakers but as the film is mainly comedy based, most of the rear sound effects are kept to a minimum.
There are two main additional features on the disc, the first been a five minute featurette entitled Cheer Camp which looks at the five actresses learning how to do some of the more difficult and daring cheerleading moves. The second is a short ten minute making-of featurette that fits a lot into its short running time. Both are fairly superfluous material that aren’t very interesting viewing. The DVD also includes trailers for the new film Bewitched and Men In Black II.
Man Of The House is a strangely enjoyable film even with its flaws, as its good points are fun and care-free, but the thin-material means the film as a whole never engages the viewer. It’s formulaic and predictable but as with all fish-out-of-water tale’s there’s usually something quirkily alluring about the subject matter. The DVD has superb sound and vision but the extra features are very lacklustre.