"Man of the House" along with Cursed is the second film released this week without an early screening for critics, and it's not hard to understand why, especially for the latter film.
But unlike Cursed this movie, produced by and starring Tommy Lee Jones, isn't a complete failure but one that is likely to find an audience. Maybe not people like me, but enough to justify its production.
The premise is as silly as it sounds: Roland Sharp (Jones), a gritty and uncompromising Texas Ranger is assigned to baby-sit five rather obnoxious cheerleaders from the University of Texas who've witnessed a murder and are possible targets of the bad guys.
He moves into the sorority house and immediately institutes firm ground rules, mostly having to do with keeping clothes on and showing as little skin as possible. Real cheerleaders and females of all ages may roll their eyes at how disgusted the movie's cheerleaders are at being forced to wear clothes, forbidden go out on dates until the case is revolved, and barred from leaving their "delicates" in Sharp's bathroom.
The film emphasizes the goofiness of the girls, as demonstrated by how instead of seriously looking at police lineup photos to identify a suspect, they rate the "hotness" of each candidate on a 1-10 scale to the despair of the FBI agents and Rangers working on the case.
Sharp will of course learn several valuable life lessons from living with these girls. Whether it's how to talk to his own increasingly distant teenage daughter, or how to buy tampons at the local grocery store, the girls will try to find the emotional and human side of Sharp. When they learn he hasn't dated many woman since divorcing his wife several years ago, they help him seduce the English professor (Anne Archer) who thinks he's the assistant cheerleading coach because he - along with two assistants - escorts the girls to their classes.
The one struggling the most is Barbara (Kelli Garner from the powerful film, "Bully") who was caught plagiarizing her last paper and requires the assistance of Sharp to help her write a new one. This is good because he's quite familiar with Shakespeare and can flirt with Professor McCarthy and invite her over to dinner in the process.
Barbara is not enthusiastic about Sharp's plan to woo her English professor, most likely because she has developed a crush on a man several year's her senior. Still, she's unmoved when one of the other girls tells her that he's old enough to be her great-grandfather. At times Garner brings too much ditzyness to her character but it isn't so distracting that it fails. There's actually some likeability if no plausibility to it.
The other girls; Heather (Vanessa Ferlito), Evie (Monica Keena), Anne (Christina Milian), and Therese (Paula Garces) have their own contributions to Sharp's life lessons and can be a struggle when they're forbidden to do things cheerleaders like to do on their free social time.
While Sharp is strict about keeping the girls confined inside the house, he is somehow persuaded to allow them to cheer at a University of Texas football game, possibly the most unsecured place you can take five woman who are at risk of assassination.
Cedric the Entertainer has a small role playing an ex-convict who has found salvation in the church, and appears briefly to do a small dance number that can't hold water to Kevin James' number in "Hitch."
"Man of the House" is for the most part funny and charming, as I couldn't help but laugh at seeing Tommy Lee Jones perusing a fleeing suspect in compact lime-green Volkswagen Beetle. His quirks, mannerisms and reactions to the peppy girls don't wear thin for the (fortunately) less than 100-minute duration.
But the movie relies too much on its use of autopilot at the climax and removed me quickly from the story with its sappy conclusion to Sharp's conflict with his 17-year-old daughter (Shannon Marie Woodward). Somewhere at the screening I attended, a girl most likely got teary-eyed, and thus this film should find an audience to stay afloat for the next couple of weeks at the box office.