Starz had a free preview weekend, so I got to sample some recent films I’d never bother to pay for. One of them was surprisingly funny — Man of the House, in which Tommy Lee Jones is a sardonic Texas Ranger who winds up protecting five University of Texas cheerleaders who witness a murder.
When he moves into their house to protect them, the situation lends itself to predictable clashes — his carnivore pizza isn’t acceptable to any of their zone or Atkins diets, or they squeal at having to give up their cell phones — but they’re executed with personality.
And it made me laugh. Jones’ craggy face rarely moves, so when it does, his reactions have more of a punch. His laconic line readings contrast hilariously with the girls’ bubbly energy. They’re shallow, but they’re still likable in their focus on what’s important to them, while his problem-solving skills are creative, especially when it comes to their skin-baring wardrobes and the resulting negotiations.
Of course, they end up helping each other out, when he dates a professor or when one of the girls needs assistance writing about Romeo and Juliet, and living with the girls helps him understand his teenage daughter better.
Having spent time in Texas, it was a hoot to see the Longhorns and their football culture again. (Apparently, this was the first movie allowed to use their name and logos.) I also liked how quickly the pizza boy (wearing the great t-shirt “Keep Austin Weird”) learned the drill of delivering to a security freak.
The action ending’s tone isn’t really in keeping with the rest of the movie, and the opening scene (involving hiding a cell phone in a cow) is tasteless. The rest of it, though, is fluffy fun.