Making the Grades
Put a tough, aging Texas Ranger in close proximity to five bubbly, bouncy Longhorn cheerleaders and you are guaranteed laughs. Right?
Well, there are some. But unfortunately, the film often falls as flat as a poorly executed cartwheel.
Roland Sharp (Tommy Lee Jones) is the hardened, no-nonsense veteran sent in to protect the spirited university squad (Christina Milian, Paula Garces, Monica Keena, Kelli Garner, Vanessa Ferlito) after they witness a violent murder in an alley behind a bar. With backup agents (Shea Whigham, Terry Parks) stationed in an upstairs apartment across the street, Roland sleeps on the couch while keeping a close eye on the energetic group and securing the premises.
However, the girls aren't the least bit cheerful about their new houseguest. He severely hampers their lives by confiscating every link to the outside world, including their cell phones and pagers. He cancels all their social interactions, limits their public appearances and insists on accompanying them to class. To make things even worse, he's grumpy all the time.
But when the pep squad is nearly killed after their van explodes, the girls begin to give some credit to their petulant protector.
Sending Roland out for tampons, giving him a cucumber facial and watching him frisk the pizza boy are just a few of the gags played for laughs. The officer also finds a cool way to encourage modesty when the pouty-lipped girls refuse to cover their midriffs and lanky legs.
While mandatory confinement isn't pleasant, the girls do soften the edges of the craggy-faced Ranger and give him some tips on improving his relationships with the female portion of society. It's advice that comes in handy with both his daughter Emma (Shannon Marie Woodward) and the single English professor (Anne Archer) he meets on campus. However, the cheerleaders most often come across as perky showpieces rather than as credible students or athletes.
Moreover, Man of the House contains a megaphone full of profanities, bullets, explosions and fistfights. Before the opening credits have finished, encounters between law enforcement officers and the crooks result in blood-covered bodies, a gunshot to the chest, and burning buildings. Later a driver is brutally shot in the head by his passenger. The cheerleaders also resort to illegal and often dangerous activities while attempting to trap the cons.
With a true fish-out-of-water premise, the film has plenty of opportunity to play on Roland's discomfort with the world of cheerleading. Too bad it doesn't stick with that instead of resorting to graphic depictions of violence that sap the pep out of this script.
Discussion Ideas After The Movie
Teaching ideas and topics to discuss about Man of the House (2005).
When the girls attempt to help catch the criminals, one cheerleader uses some unlawful skills she acquired while in juvenile detention. Why are illegal activities often portrayed as the only solution to a problem? What options might the girls have used instead?
Roland gets after a squad member who is caught plagiarizing a school paper. Why does he believe that cheating is worse than stupid? What does he do to help encourage her with her next assignment? How rampant do you think cheating is in your school?
For a list of more famous former cheerleaders, go to: http://cheerleading.about.com/od/famouscheerleaders/