Harry Potter!
Cinema Signal:

Asking for Trouble
A novel by Elizabeth Young

. "Man of the House"

There's not much here that is, in any way, surprising. You go to see it because a few laughs and broad banter (not a pun) is on the bill.

Tommy Lee Jones is cast as Roland Sharp, a tough Texas Ranger in mind and skin. He's got a face to match his voice: gravelly... temperament to match both. So, when he's assigned to personally protect five members of the cheerleading squad because they witnessed a murder and are the only ones who can identify the shooter, he's pretty much in alien territory. (Actually, Austin, Texas).

The girls of the team are cast for acting ability, bodies, peersonality, physical attributes, energy, spirit, and bodies. There's Anne (Christina Milian), Teresa (Paula Garces), Evie (Monica Keena), Heather (Vanessa Ferlito) and Barb (Kelli Garner). This house is drenched in T&A.

The situation is a form of house arrest with Mr. Hardnose setting the rules. The interraction is primed for low-level laughs, some of which are flatter than a long opened bottle of Lone Star beer. The bodies help you get past it but the plot, which is thinner than a cheerleader's jersey, is about staying minimal and uncomplicated so that the crusty cop wrangling a herd of feisty chicks idea can be mined for laughs until the cows come home and the corrupt FBI killer comes a-callin'.

There's a little more to this variation on a house party. Besides the coverup of a powerful corporate criminal, Roland's difficulty in relating to his young daughter Emma, who is roughly the same age as his cheerleaders, is going to receive some therapy. He will emerge from the femme "shrink package" a changed man.

Which is also going to come in handy with maturely gorgeous Molly McCarthy (Anne Archer), one of the girls' lit professor, who is ready to overlook the over-50 heartthrob's all-thumbs obtuseness because of an instant attraction, so long as he doesn't make an utter ass of himself on their first date. To avoid that calamity he's got the earphone assist of his crew of lovelorn advisors on closed channel surveillance "helping out" with hidden cameras and mics secreted away on an upper floor.

So, while it's not Shakespeare (which one of the girls is studying), Stephen Herek's study in gross-out humor doesn't become the laff riot it tries for, needing a central figure with a sharper wit and better control (see Tommy Lee Jones in "Men in Black" and "Men in Black II"), less dependence on humorless talents (Cedric the Entertainer might want to try out for American Idol) and a better hand on the writing team so that there needn't have been so much dependence on the quickly dissipated effusive fizz of the girl lot.

Give it ten for clean titillation; zero for deep thought. The outfall is goofy, good natured fun and, with all the dazzling bodies, can we really come away from it wanting more?

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                                      ~~  Jules Brenner  


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