For ‘Man of the House,’ Tommy Lee we forgive ye
First, a few facts about Tommy Lee Jones you may not have known. He’s a graduate of Harvard University where he roomed with none other than Al Gore. Legend has it the two roomies provided the inspiration for the character “Oliver” in Erich Segal’s 1970 novel “Love Story.” Jones is a serious polo enthusiast who raises horses and still finds time to tend to his 3000-acre cattle ranch near San Antonio, Texas.
He also enjoys giving out cigars. I know this because that’s what he was doing when I bellied up to a poolside bar across from him at a resort in the Bahamas a few years ago.
One thing you probably already know is that he is also a talented actor — another natural, no acting classes ever — having won various awards including an Oscar for his work in 1993’s “The Fugitive.” He makes a lot of money. For example, Jones was paid $20 million plus a percentage of the profits to do “Men in Black II.”
Yet with all this talent, skill, intelligence and experience he still decided to star in and produce (for the first time) the decidedly low-brow “Man of the House.”
Apparently even Oscar-winning, polo playing, cattle-ranching, cigar-sharing Harvard graduates can make massive artistic misjudgments.
This is a film with little to recommend it save Tommy Lee’s craggy, wooden presence as Texas Ranger Roland Sharp, whose assignment is to guard a cadre of college cheerleaders after they witness a murder.
There are a few good laughs, thanks to Tommy Lee’s deadpan delivery and “all business” persona (much like in the “MIB” films) which conveys a certain charismatic charm. In previous films he’s made up some of his own funniest lines, and it wouldn’t be a surprise to learn if he had to do that in “Man of the House” because so much of the screenplay tries too hard to be funny.
That’s usually the first sign of a film that is not.
And who knows why he chose director Stephen Herek? Was it his stellar work in “Life or Something Like It,” “Holy Man,” or perhaps the worst Disney remake of all time “101 Dalmatians”?
The cheerleaders are cute — bordering on overly cheesy — in dress and decorum, but at least there is an attempt to give them some individuality. The action and drama are strictly formula devices, and we are all still waiting for Cedric the Entertainer (who plays a reformed preacher) to prove himself worthy of his moniker.
Fans of Anne Archer (as Roland’s wife) might enjoy seeing her after a long screen absence. (Plus, it’s fun to try to figure out what work she’s had done.)
“Man of the House” might make for a decent rental, but please see “Hitch” before you see this film. And that goes for you who’ve already seen “Hitch.”
Rated PG-13 for mild profanity, sexual dialogue and violence.