Movies & TV / Columns

Misunderstood Masterpieces: Man Of The House

August 2, 2005 | Posted by Will Helm

Ah, to be an Academy Award winner. To most, there is no greater pinnacle in the film industry. Winning an Oscar should be a ticket to superstardom and, perhaps, even Hollywood-legend status. It’s a table at Sardi’s, dinner created by Wolfgang Puck, and cushy interviews with notable celebrity interviewers. Win an Oscar and the first call you get is from Barbara Walters; it’s like the President calling the Super Bowl-winning team . . . just more intelligible. Or less. OK, it’s about the same.

It should be noted, however, that this scenario is just a fantasy. Just because you win an Academy Award doesn’t mean you can stop working, even if you’re a highly paid actor. In fact, sometimes you do terrible things after winning your Oscar . . . terrible films with little to no redeeming quality. Especially recently, it seems that the Academy Award has no cachй in Hollywood, considering the fates that have befallen some of its winners. For example, nowadays it seems that the great screen presence Christopher Walken (1979, Best Supporting Actor, The Deer Hunter) has downgraded from chilling thespian to staple of Saturday Night Live and goofy comedies. Robert DeNiro (1975, Best Supporting Actor, The Godfather: Part II; 1981, Best Actor, Raging Bull) takes any script that comes in front of him. Michael Caine (1987, Best Supporting Actor, Hannah and Her Sisters; 2000, Best Supporting Actor, The Cider House Rules) was in nearly every movie made in the 1980s. This isn’t a plague facing only older actors, though; even more recent winners have fallen on hard times when it comes to selecting films. Halle Berry (2002, Best Actress, Monster’s Ball) last starred in the cinematic abortion Catwoman . . . which you’ll probably see here in the near future. Jamie Foxx (2005, Best Actor, Ray) is currently stinking up movie theaters in the confused action/sci-fi/romance Stealth.

And then there’s Tommy Lee Jones (1994, Best Supporting Actor, The Fugitive). Even though we last saw him in this column in the Day-Glo atrocity titled Batman Forever, he topped that over-the-top performance with a subtle, understated role in the subtle, understated crime comedy Man of the House. OK . . . so I’m lying. While Tommy Lee Jones may be rather understated, the film is far from; without even watching it, I could bet that the plot is filled with the usual terrible clichйs and hackneyed plot devices. Think I’m wrong? Want to see if I win this bet? Read on, dear readers!

To begin, we see some asphalt speeding before us while ZZ Top plays in the background. Hmm . . . if ZZ Top’s playing, I bet we’re in Texas. It’s just a hunch. Someone – we don’t yet know who – is driving a lonely road into what looks like the Black Hills. OK, so it’s either South Dakota or Texas. My vote’s still on the latter, though. In the car rocketing down the lonely highway, some chick (Liz Vassey) mumbles to Tommy Lee Jones, who looks quite authoritative as if he’s some sort of law-enforcement officer. A U.S. Marshal, perhaps? No . . . wrong movie. Meanwhile, we jump over to a random Baptist church, where Cedric the Entertainer leads the congregation with a blessing directly from the O’Jays. So it’s the First Church of Rhythm & Blues? OK then. Tommy Lee Jones and his HOT CHICK partner – who are law-enforcement officers of some type – enter the church and TOTALLY blend in. Their presence among the church-goers makes Mr. the Entertainer quite nervous for no particular reason. Hmm . . . didn’t I already see this in Dolemite?

After the service concludes, Tommy Lee Jones and his HOT CHICK partner meet with Mr. the Entertainer in his office. It seems that the two members of the local constabulary want to know about Mr. the Entertainer’s ex-cellmate. Ah . . .an ex-convict who’s found religion. How original. During the questioning, Mr. the Entertainer deflects the officers’ queries fairly successfully . . . until his cell phone rings at the most inopportune moment! Mr. the Entertainer makes a run for it while gospel music plays in the background, since we don’t want to offend anyone with racial stereotypes or anything. Mr. the Entertainer, gasping for breath due to his corpulent girth – remember this for later – finds himself trapped in a cow pen; now cornered by the two members of the law-enforcement community, Mr. the Entertainer cracks wise about a Bible verse so Tommy Lee Jones hits him in the head with a rock. No . . . really. All we need now is a good, old-fashioned lynching to make this movie complete, honestly. Once again, the phone rings and, somehow, it’s inside a cow. Umm . . . I don’t know much about bovine anatomy, but either the cow has a really fast-moving gastrointestinal tract or Mr. the Entertainer stuffed the phone into the cow’s messy methane-maker. No matter, though, as Tommy Lee Jones matter-of-factly anally fists the cow and retrieves the phone for Mr. the Entertainer to answer. OK, now that’s just degrading . . . for the cow.

Elsewhere, at a random shootout, some guy holed up in an abandoned warehouse yells out the window and sets things on fire inside the building. Tommy Lee Jones and his HOT CHICK partner, since they’re tough-as-nails cops, go in after him. With no backup. Or even a gas mask to keep the noxious fumes at bay. Seriously; this is stretching reality just a LITTLE bit. After a bit of Tommy Lee Jones robotically – yet heroically – striding through walls of fire (he’s the next Terminator!), he catches the paranoid perpetrator . . . and it’s Dudley “Booger” Dawson (Curtis Armstrong)! Oh Booger! Where did you go wrong? It seems that Tommy Lee Jones and his HOT CHICK partner were pursuing Booger because they want him to testify about something; I guess arson and endangering the life of a peace officer aren’t crimes in Texas, then. Then again, I could be wrong, as Tommy Lee Jones exacts some Texas-style justice and throws Booger out a window and onto the street outside.

After the tumult subsides, some smarmy FBI guy (Brian Van Holt) mocks Tommy Lee Jones for no particular reason. Methinks someone doesn’t have the manhood to walk into a burning building to catch a former nerd, so he just makes fun to compensate. Instead of making jokes, the FBI guy should have been doing his job as some random sniper – who just happened to be posted on a rooftop opposite the warehouse – shoots Booger in the shoulder and Tommy Lee Jones’ HOT CHICK partner in the chest. Oops. The sniper, not content with the job he did wounding Booger, chases the wounded nerd through the streets of Austin in his SUV; the ride comes to an abrupt end when the sniper collides with the back-end of a delivery truck. Miraculously, he seems to survive PERFECTLY UNHARMED! Yeah. Booger, perhaps looking to celebrate his newfound freedom, goes into a bar that just happens to be hosting a University of Texas pep rally. The cheerleaders in attendance there – sassy (yes, you know what that REALLY means) Anne (Christina Milian); crazy Latina Teresa (Paula Garcйs); nerdy, nervy Evie (Monica Keena); accent-confused Heather (Vanessa Ferlito); and dumb blonde Barb (Kelli Garner) – go into the bathroom after their little performance and they complain. Whoo . . . way to make them sympathetic characters right off the bat, movie! Evie, followed by the rest of the cheerleaders, just happen to look out the window in time to see Booger murdered and, apparently, the FBI guy shot as well. Unsurprisingly, the cheerleaders freak out and skip out of the joint. That’s about right.

Elsewhere, Tommy Lee Jones meets up with some young chick (Shannon Marie Woodward) in a restaurant. They mumble together about something – this movie really has a problem with enunciation – and we discern, through the indecipherable dialogue, that Tommy Lee Jones isn’t a pedophile but merely this young girl’s father. Whew. And I was worried this movie’s morals were going to be muddled early on. After Tommy Lee Jones’ daughter reveals that she’s going off to college and that she would like her father to be more attentive to her needs, Tommy Lee Jones gets a call on his cell phone and skips from the scene. Oh, irony! Next, Tommy Lee Jones goes to the local stationhouse, where he and some guy have a mumbling conversation together. Hey movie! Speak up! In one of the interrogation rooms, the cheerleaders are all there together freaking out and complaining – again – about being sequestered. Tommy Lee Jones, watching the “hilarity” through the two-way mirror, enters the room and the girls ask him first if he knows Derek Jeter – I heard their break-up made him go crazy – or if he’s like Chuck Norris since – of course – Tommy Lee Jones is actually Texas Ranger Roland Sharp. Get it? Baseball? Walker, Texas Ranger? Whoo. Side splitting.

After beginning the questioning post haste, Sharp reveals that he doesn’t like chewing gum in his interrogations; I guess that’s one of those little character quirks just so that we can understand the subtlety of his performance. Or someone thought it was a good line to keep in there. Eh . . . either or. The cheerleaders, who – apparently – have the IQs of simpletons, can’t agree on what the assassin looked like, so no physical description is available to the investigators. Since the cheerleaders are so damned confusing, the questioning lasts all night, much to the chagrin of Sharp and his boss, R. Lee Ermey! Damn . . . Curtis Armstrong and R. Lee Ermey in the same movie! Brilliance! In order to provide another one of those character moments, deep into the scene Barb – the dumb, blonde cheerleader – plays with her chest in front of the two-way mirror; Sharp and R. Lee Ermey are either quite excited by this or totally put off. My bet is that they’re acting the latter but really the former. It’s just a hunch.

The next day, the Rangers meet with Governor Rick Perry for no reason other than just to have a pointless political cameo in the movie. Just for wasting my time, Gov. Perry, I hope you lose your next election. Back at the station, the cheerleaders are released from custody, but not on their own recognizance; instead, they have the trained protection of Sharp and two of his masculine – and nameless – colleagues. Can you say “cannon fodder”? I knew you could. Once in the police van, Sharp reveals more of his character, specifically that he has no sense of humor and that he has superpowers. Seriously . . . he knows exactly what’s going on behind him without looking! He should’ve been a teacher with skills like that. Elsewhere, at the state courthouse, some evil criminal guy (Turner Stephen Bruton) has the charges against him dropped, crimes to which – apparently – Booger was the key witness. Poor Booger. May God have mercy on his nerdy soul. The evil criminal guy, once in the safety of his car, makes a phone call . . . to the FBI guy! Dum-dum-DUM! It seems that there’s a nefarious plan afoot, but we really don’t know what’s going on . . . except that the FBI guy is EVIL!

At the cheerleaders’ house, Sharp orders his sleazy, much younger partners around and then tells them that they’ll be staying at the frat house across the street. Sharp, the senior officer on the case, therefore has the unenviable duty of staying with the cheerleaders and protecting their safety. With that in mind, Sharp organizes a meeting with his charges wherein Teresa the crazy Latina and he argue in Spanish because he took her cell phone. Oh! The horror! Essentially, Sharp keeps the cheerleaders as hostages in their own house; Evie, since she’s wound a little too tightly – it must be the silicone (Ms. Keena looks a bit more . . . developed since last we saw her) – freaks out over her scholarship and such; in response, Anne gets all sassy with Sharp because he may be able to stop them from doing everything else, but he can’t stop them from cheering! Yeah . . . I think she actually said that. Wow.

Therefore, at the next University of Texas home game, the cheerleaders take the field and Sharp has a run-in with their frighteningly peppy coach (Paget Brewster). Sheesh . . . that’s even scarier than Freddy Vs. Jason! During a break in the action, the cheerleaders do a routine . . . and the Arkansas mascot stalks onto the field with a submachine gun! Sharp, sensing danger, tackles the devious plushy but finds out that he’s risking a lawsuit when the submachine gun turns out to be a mere water pistol. Oops. Sharp, confused, makes the “Longhorn” hand signal and all is right with the world as the crowd goes wild. Over at the frat house, Sharp’s colleagues watch the cheerleaders until they’re rudely interrupted by the friendly neighborhood weed dealer. Hmm . . . what’s that I smell? The set-up to a bad joke? You betcha! That evening, Sharp has a little heart-to-heart with the rebellious and down-to-earth Heather, who looks like the love child of Leah Remini and Angelina Jolie . . . and can’t quite figure out how to cover up Ms. Ferlito’s native Brooklyn accent with a fake Texas drawl. Sharp, over the course of the conversation, reveals that he longs for his HOT CHICK partner – of whose fate we never really learn – or his daughter or his wife . . . or just some sweet, sweet lovin’. He is a man, after all.

The next day, Sharp sits in on one of Barb’s classes – which happens to be about Shakespeare . . . I think this is revenge for The Prince & Me – and he is, obviously, digging on the HOT CHICK professor (Anne Archer). After class, Sharp and the HOT CHICK Professor Molly McCarthy meet in her office and he confesses that he really doesn’t like cheerleading – remember, readers, that his cover is as a cheerleading conditioning coach – and the professor, perhaps taken aback by Sharp’s honesty, rushes right into the subject on her mind: Barb’s plagiarism. In order for Barb to stay on the squad, she needs to get her grade up and Sharp, in his own stoic way, says he’ll take care of it. Professor McCarthy, who must have a thing for guys who channel Zeno, gets all funny around Sharp. Umm . . . awkward. They just met, people. Methinks that the University of Texas doesn’t have a very good dating scene for their faculty. Anyway, after the meeting, Sharp and Barb argue over her class and we learn, through a “hilarious” series of run-ins, that Barb is more interested in boys than the Bard. Sharp, sensing that she’s a dumb blonde slut in the making, gives her a stern talking-to as any coach would. Isn’t he just the wonderful father-figure? It’s too bad that he essentially abandoned his own daughter in that restaurant in the beginning of the film.

That evening, just because, the cheerleaders have their own little dance number while cooking; meanwhile, Sharp answers the door to get a pizza from a hapless delivery guy (Nar Williams). After a cursory weapons search, Sharp takes the pizza . . . and tips the guy a quarter! I guess the Texas Rangers don’t pay very well; blame A-Rod for that. Over dinner, Teresa the crazy Latina freaks out about something while Sharp teases the rest of the cheerleaders with his meat-slathered pizza. For some reason, the conversation turns to Sharp’s daughter or, in other words, it’s time to soften his character up a bit. Or not, as their line of questioning only results in making Sharp paranoid regarding just what his daughter is doing behind his back; he plays it cool, though. Or, at least, as cool as a guy who is thinking of his daughter having sex can be.

The next morning, Sharp wakes up to find the cheerleaders’ lacey unmentionables strewn everywhere about the bathroom. He goes downstairs to confront them but, during that time, he just ends up freaking out at their breakfasts, immodest dress, and the word “vagina.” Not the real vagina, mind you . . . just the word. As a measure of REVENGE, Sharp has a comically giant air conditioner installed in the house, intending to freeze the cheerleaders into putting on some clothes. His plan works until the cheerleaders rebel and bring out a life-sized cut-out of a Dallas Cowgirl cheerleader for moral support. You know, that’d be really funny . . . if it weren’t really what happened. Anyway, Sharp ends up foiling their scheme by drawing on the cardboard cut-out which – I suppose – is supposed to be funny. Meanwhile, back in Austin, the EVIL FBI guy visits R. Lee Ermey; the EVIL FBI guy plays hardball – with the Texas Rangers, ironically – in his quest to find Sharp and the “witnesses.” R. Lee Ermey stands firm, though, mainly because the EVIL FBI guy is the lowest form of life on earth.

Sometime later, the pizza guy comes back with another pizza but, this time, the cheerleaders steal it while Sharp is on the phone with R. Lee Ermey. It seems that R. Lee Ermey has a subpoena on his desk from the EVIL FBI guy, but he cares less about that and more about the comically humongous air conditioner Sharp ordered. Now that’s what I call prioritizing. After Sharp ends his conversation and mourns his loss of pizza, the cheerleaders band together to try and convince Sharp to let them go out. Sharp, instead of having a fun night on the town with the girls, elects instead to handcuff them to the nearest railing. Oh geez . . . I’ve seen this before. Next comes the Vaseline! Actually, the cheerleaders, probably suffering from some form of the Stockholm Syndrome, then try to reason with Sharp; their gambit actually works because next we see them – and Sharp – frolicking at the local roller rink. Wait . . . a ROLLER RINK? Did this suddenly become the late ‘70s? Hilariously, the always matter-of-fact Sharp can’t skate, but the cheerleaders inspire him with more talk about his daughter. OK . . . we get the point. His daughter is an important part of the movie. Oh . . . little do they know, however. Anyway, the cheerleaders give Sharp advice on parenting and rollerskating and then they let him go . . . only to watch as he uproariously falls onto his back and probably suffers a brain injury. Oh well . . . movie’s over.

Sometime later, since this movie wouldn’t be any good without some sinister foreshadowing, the EVIL FBI guy goes to chat with Sharp’s daughter; unfortunately for him, his nefarious plans are thwarted because she doesn’t know anything about her father’s whereabouts. Meanwhile, Sharp – for no reason in particular other than to justify Mr. the Entertainer’s paycheck – brings his charges to meet with the corpulent reverend. After Mr. the Entertainer finishes a choir practice, Sharp asks him about the now-dead sniper from earlier in the film. Mr. the Entertainer reveals that he knew the deceased from his stretch in the pokey which means it’s time for some exposition! Blah, blah, blah . . . it’s all stuff we already could’ve figured out earlier. Anyway, after the exposition session concludes, Mr. the Entertainer puts the moves on the cheerleaders and then confesses that he used to be a part of the University of Texas cheerleading squad. In fact, he still has his uniform . . . .and it fits (somewhat). The cheerleaders laugh at his disgusting girth, but Mr. the Entertainer is having none of it, which can only mean one thing: DANCE BATTLE! While the cheerleaders bring their sassy moves to the competition, Mr. the Entertainer kicks it old school – and yet, earlier in the film, he couldn’t run more than a few yards without getting winded. Hmm. Mr. the Entertainer then nearly kills himself during the finale, but it’s probably all worth it since he won the DANCE BATTLE.

That evening, Sharp calls his daughter’s phone mail because he’s dutifully checking up on her . . . although really he’s just a font of sadness and regret. To lighten up the mood, Evie comes in and tells Sharp that one of her cheerleading sisters is experiencing the feminine wonder of menstruation. Isn’t that sweet? Therefore, just to let us know that this is a serious fish-out-of-water tale, Sharp goes tampon shopping in his own inimitable way. Once there, he meets once more with Prof. McCarthy, who must not have reached menopause yet. Good to know. Prof. McCarthy, being a woman, gives Sharp some expert advice and suggests that he purchase the “one with wings.” You know, they’re so light that your panties will just fly away! Damn I’d love to see some company use that tag line. Anyway, romance blooms in the feminine hygiene aisle as Prof. McCarthy asks Sharp for a dinner date the next evening. He refuses but, in the parking lot afterwards, they meet again – Prof. McCarthy forgot her keys inside the store – and he suggests, in lieu of going out to dinner, she come over to the cheerleaders’ house and he’ll cook dinner. Say what you will, but Sharp is a smooth operator. Either that, or Prof. McCarthy is REALLY desperate.

Back at the house, one of Sharp’s colleagues gives Heather – who must be a law-enforcement groupie or something – an impromptu astronomy lesson. Sharp arrives home to break it up and then . . . there’s a scream! Sharp, gun in hand, rushes upstairs to find Barb in the bathroom, lamenting her now-magenta hair. Oh, the hilarity; he almost killed her over a bad dye job. Of course, in the ensuing chaos, Sharp learns that the menstruation was actually a ruse as sassy Anne and crazy Latina Theresa escaped the house during Sharp’s absence! And just where are they? The local bar, of course, shooting pool and then getting hit on by some drunken townies. Anne and Theresa, since they’re sassy and crazy respectively, pick a fight with the inebriated barflies only to find themselves quickly outnumbered. Luckily for them, Sharp swoops in to save the day and cleans house as only he can. He even – gasp! – wisecracks, proving that perhaps the cheerleaders are giving him a sense of humor after all. Sadly, instead of being grateful for Sharp’s opportune rescue, sassy Anne and crazy Latina Teresa are merely put out by Sharp’s efforts. Back at the house, Heather gives Sharp a buckwheat pillow and then he tells her that his favorite movie is The Sound of Music. Yup . . . softening of the character is going according to schedule.

The next day, Sharp cooks dinner while giving Barb a Shakespeare lesson in the kitchen. The rest of the cheerleaders, who were off doing . . . something, come in merely to mock Sharp’s chili. Ah, they mock what they don’t understand . . . and, being cheerleaders, there’s A LOT they don’t understand. The cheerleaders, since they’re feminine and all, decide to give Sharp a makeover in time for his big date later in the evening. This date comes as a surprise to Barb who, we learn through a pep talk with Evie, has a crush on Sharp because she probably has some serious “daddy issues.” Upstairs, the cheerleaders subject Sharp to a comically complex makeover; it’s like Cheer Eye for the Straight Guy or something. After the spa treatment, Sharp looks . . . pretty much the same. Good work, girls! The cheerleaders, channeling Jai Rodriguez, give Sharp personality lessons, but that’s like trying to push a boulder up Mt. Everest. They actually realize the futility of their pursuit and then equip Sharp with an earpiece so that they can help him along on his date.

Moments later, Prof. McCarthy shows up at the door and the cheerleaders give Sharp lines to say and tasks to accomplish as she enters the house. After Sharp gives the professor some flowers and takes her gift of wine – alcohol . . . see, she is desperate – he retreats to the kitchen to open the bottle while the cheerleaders become like totally giddy because the professor is checking her makeup. Sharp, a glass of wine and a mug of root beer in hand, returns to his date and then cracks a terribly unfunny joke about his past bouts of alcoholism. Bill W. wouldn’t be proud at all. He then retires to the dining room, where he and the cheerleaders argue over whether or not lit candles are appropriately romantic or cheesy on the dinner table. Who knew that people get so hung up on minutiae like that? Anyway, Sharp ends up lighting the candles and, as they burn down to small, waxy nubs, he and the professor share some tender backstory together. After dinner, Sharp and Prof. McCarthy get all romantic together while listening to Willie Nelson. Because when I think “romance,” I think “Willie Nelson.” They do end up dancing together – hey, whatever floats your boat – and then Barb watches in horror as Sharp takes the professor to the living room and he cuts off her feed. Note to the cheerleaders: wash that couch tomorrow.

Some evening, Evie, since she really has nothing else better to do than further the plot, surreptitiously calls Sharp’s daughter; it’s not totally surreptitious, though, as the EVIL FBI guy listens in! Dum-dum-DUM! I think you know where this is going. Anyway, the next day, the cheerleaders, who have a big pep rally to attend that evening, coerce Sharp into letting them go by giving an impassioned, inspired speech about the patriotic power of their cheerleading. And I’m sure the Founding Fathers would really love to know their sacrifices and travails are being trumped by coeds in short, pleated skirts. Glory, glory, hallelujah. Sharp, since the girls have turned him into a big softie, taps into his newfound sense of humor and lets them go . . . with him in tow, of course. At the pep rally, while the EVIL FBI guy watches from the periphery, the attendees get out their hoods and burning crosses and . . . wait. Wrong kind of rally. Oops. Anyway, at the rally, the psycho cheerleading coach introduces Sharp to the student body and he gives the crowd a generic rah-rah-“let’s get ‘em” speech . . . until he starts feelin’ it. And, once that happens, he whips the crowd into a frenzy with his nonsensical ramblings and – oddly enough – the crowd goes wild. Of course, they’re probably blind drunk at this point, so they’d go wild over a flattened opossum.

Sharp, the new Big Man on Campus, escorts the cheerleaders back to their van, but there’s one problem . . . there’s a bomb under the van! Now, you’d think that Sharp’s two sleazy accomplices would have been watching the vehicle, but then you’d be wrong. And the pyrotechnics guy would be out of a job, as we need the van to blow up – but everyone gets out anyway so it’s really worthless. Or is it? You see, the conflagration works as a great plot device, letting Sharp know that his cover has been blown . . . no pun intended. Evie confesses that she’s the unwitting culprit in this case, so Sharp shoots her right between the eyes; it’s better than the lengthy criminal trial, you know. Texas justice, remember? Or not, as he just shrugs his shoulders and then remembers that now his daughter is probably in trouble so he calls her . . . but she’s safely under the protection of the EVIL FBI guy! Oh please. You have got to be kidding me. I mean, it’s not enough to put the cheerleaders in jeopardy; now you have the audacity to put Sharp’s daughter in harm’s way simply because she had the ill fortune of being born to this nincompoop? You should be ashamed of yourself, movie. I’m ashamed to be watching you. Anyway, the EVIL FBI guy, just like every other damned movie villain in this situation, gives Sharp a bunch of convoluted ransom demands . . . a bargain we know the EVIL FBI guy is never going to live up to anyway.

Sharp, since he’s done being a bad cop and now back to being a good cop – having your daughter held hostage by an EVIL FBI guy will do that – goes to work, cowboy hat and all. Sharp drives to some deserted Texas border town to make the drop; once there, the EVIL FBI guy shows up with Sharp’s daughter and – TOTALLY surprisingly – double-crosses the dutiful Texas Ranger. Oh . . . I didn’t see that coming. Oh no. Sharp, handcuffed inside his car, resolves himself to failure, until he sees Barb in the back of the bus that his daughter and the EVIL FBI guy are on. Yes, the cheerleaders are there to help save the day. Great. On the dilapidated bus filled with migrants – probably heading to their jobs at Wal-Mart – all the cheerleaders save for Heather – who is busy freeing Sharp from his handcuffs – are there and they have a plan. Teresa the crazy Latina, since she’s crazy, fakes labor pains and then, in the commotion, the cheerleaders rescue Sharp’s daughter and then slip out to the roof of the bus. After a brief showdown with Evie, the EVIL FBI guy kicks everyone off the bus and he hijacks it. Sharp, in a Volkswagen Beetle convertible, gives chase down a lonely highway toward the Mexican border. The EVIL FBI guy, disobeying the rules of the road, shoots at Sharp . . . and then he flips the bus over. You’d think they’d give some bus-driving lessons at Quantico for just this type of occasion, but I guess you’d be wrong. Anyway, the EVIL FBI guy dramatically tries to hobble his way across the border with the ransom money under his arm but, while facing Sharp on one side of the border and a line of armed Federales on the other side of the border, the EVIL FBI guy turns his gun on Sharp. Sharp, disproving something he explained to Heather WAY earlier in the film, shoots the gun out of his hand . . . and there is much rejoicing.

In the aftermath, the EVIL FBI guy goes to jail along with his evil boss from the beginning of the film. Meanwhile, Sharp makes up with his Vassar-bound daughter – it’s actually refreshing that she’s NOT going to the University of Texas – and then we learn that he’s marrying Prof. McCarthy. Wow . . . after one date? She must REALLY be desperate. Menopause must be coming like that proverbial thief in the night. At the wedding, Mr. the Entertainer goofs around and then breaks into song. After the vows are exchanged, Sharp’s daughter barks like a dog and then Mr. the Entertainer and the cheerleaders close with a rousing dance number. Because that’s the ending this movie needed, of course.

You know, over the course of doing this column, I’ve encountered many types of bad films. It’s rare, however, to find a film that combines many different types of these bad qualities and hallmarks . . . but this is certainly one of those films. Mind if I review some of them? Let’s see . . . there’s the plethora of time-tested, hackneyed clichйs. You could easily predict half of what is going to happen in this movie at any given time. Like a few other films I’ve covered, Man of the House has far too many characters; when the cast is bloated like it is here, there’s very little room for character development or even the simple fleshing out of the characters. The cheerleaders, as annoying and stereotypical as they can be, are merely two-dimensional window dressing with a few “hilarious” quirks added for flavor. Most tellingly, the film drags on and on, filling time with a series of non sequitur scenes – like the barroom scene, the cooking dance, or Barb playing with her breasts in the interrogation room – in lieu of getting to where it’s going efficiently or developing more of the characters’ personas instead of giving them the short shrift. In all, Man of the House is a lot like a stereotypical cheerleader: it might be alright to look at, but it’s generally inherently empty.

Join me next week as I get you all ready for what’s coming at the end of the summer with a fine selection of education-related films. Get your books ready and your shoes shined, because next week, we’re going back to school . . . even though I’m not actually doing Back to School. Yet. See you then!


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Will Helm
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