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Monday, December 29, 2014 |  Madison, WI: 20.0° F  Overcast
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Man of the House

He's up to his elbows in pom-poms," says the press material for Man of the House, which stars Tommy Lee Jones as a Texas Ranger assigned to protect the witnesses to a murder, who just happen to be members of the University of Texas cheerleading squad. I gotta say, up to his elbows in pom-poms is about the last place I expected to find Jones, who has a lot of distinguished work behind him in such movies as Coal Miner's Daughter, The Fugitive and, oh I don't know, Volcano. But here he is anyway, lending his craggy personality to a glorified "Girls Gone Wild" video. What was he thinking? And which part of him was thinking it?

Not that there's any hanky-panky going on between the guy with the badge and the girls in their tube tops and hip-huggers. In fact, the movie has a father-daughter storyline not unlike the one in Million Dollar Baby. While holed up in a sorority house with his five charges, whose appeal seems lost on him, Jones' Roland Sharp learns a few lessons about fatherhood, lessons he may apply to his own neglected daughter before the closing credits. Meanwhile, there's a lot of fish-out-of-water humor to be gotten through, as when Sharp, sent out for supplies, has to choose from among a bewildering array of sanitary napkins. I'll leave you to guess which one he lands on.

That the movie even brings up such subjects might have seemed liberating once upon a time. Here, it just seems like pandering, part of the overall naughty-but-nice atmosphere. Which may be why the filmmakers went with Texas Longhorn cheerleaders instead of, say, Dallas Cowboy cheerleaders. We're supposed to think of these sassy sexpots as amateurs, not professionals ' coeds with more spirit than they know what to do with. And cheerleading, which might have seemed the opposite of liberating once upon a time, is given a Bring It On spin, the squad finally using its skills to defeat the opposing team, also known as the bad guys.

Okay, fine, I wasn't exactly expecting an intellectual outing, even though one of the girls, the script makes painfully clear, is a biochemistry major, rocket science no longer being a viable option, what with the cuts at NASA. But it would have been nice if the movie had given Jones something to do. He's in his Men in Black mode, draining all the emotion out of his performance, and it's surprising how enjoyable it is to sit there and contemplate that expression on his face ' correction, that lack of expression. It's one of the great faces in the history of movies, the features seemingly carved from a very old piece of wood. And one can only hope he finds better uses for it.

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