Friday, March 4, 2005

Man of the House

Texas Ranger Roland Sharp (Tommy Lee Jones) and his partner are trying to track down a witness who can testify against a drug lord. They visit the ex-con Reverend Percy Stevens (Cedric the Entertainer) at his church because he was in jail with the witness. He denies being in touch with his former cell-mate and tries to run just when the witness calls the Reverend on his cell phone. The Reverend hides the phone up the behind of a cow, and Roland Sharp gets to extract it; this does not do a lot for his somber personality.


When five University of Texas cheerleaders see the drug lord murder a witness, three Texas Rangers, headed by Ranger Sharp, are ordered to protect them until they can testify. So Roland moves in with the girls, and the other two agents set up surveillance in a skuzzy and weedy frat house next door.


The FBI wants in on the case and one agent will do all he can to find Sharp’s protected witnesses.


Sharp is by turn security guard, baby-sitter, surrogate-father, Shakespeare tutor, and shopper of all things feminine for the young ladies of the house.  He goes to class with one of the girls and he and the professor (Anne Archer) make an immediate connection. But Sharp has intimacy issues; in fact, he is barely able to communicate with his 17 year-old daughter.


This pretty much sets the scene for a pretty funny movie. At first the girls seem to be air-heads but little by little we get to know them and they are pretty smart, kind and generous. And Sharp is pretty sharp, too. How he gets the girls to wear more clothes around the house is extreme and not a little ingenious.


Longhorns and Aggieswill love the film, football becoming the new national pastime and symbolic ritual of patriotic Americans. Interesting how movies find a way to tell stories that strive to uplift the national psyche while entertaining us at the same time. By the end of the film Sharp and the girls learn new things about relationships and how everyone can be a hero today.


(I just saw “Diary of a Mad Black Woman” both films have casual references to marijuana.  Movies and TV “normalize” such behavior and kids are watching these shows; they need adults to talk about drugs in the context of the film. The humorous references to drugs, unfortunately, often make drug use seem inconsequential. “Diary” and “Man of the House” both deal with the more serious side of drug use as well, but overall the message may be ambiguous to the uncritical or very young viewer. Thus it is worthwhile to talk about these themes; parents are the anti-drug. I don’t want to overstate it, but how can we celebrate being American and be casual about drug use at the same time?)


Man of the House is very entertaining because it isn’t more than it sets out to be. There are five story writers and screenwriters and usually this is a recipe for disaster, but in this case, it works out fine. Enjoy (but remember to talk about the drug issues.)


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