In ''Man of the House," Tommy Lee Jones plays Roland Sharp, a Texas Ranger protecting a quintet of University of Texas cheerleaders who witness a murder. This is another sour lawman for Jones, but once he moves into the girls' home and pretends to be their coach, he's sweetened, naturally.
The setup could be the pilot of a sitcom, and the gags are what you might expect from a freshman screenwriting contest: Kids, whip up something crazy (but not too crazy) for Mr. Jones! But Jones is a professional throughout -- not to mention a native Texan and one of the movie's producers. He seems comfortable reluctantly getting facials and shopping for maxi pads while his charges are under house arrest. He refuses to let a minute of this movie embarrass him.
All the fooling is left to Cedric the Entertainer, who's been hired to ensure laughs while playing an ex-con turned preacher, the bubbly kind who crashes into furniture and tries to outdance the cheerleaders. There's no logical reason for his character to be here, beyond the suggestion that folks who like Tommy Lee Jones and those who like Cedric the Entertainer might not be the same people, thereby doubling the audience.
But logic seems beside the point of ''Man of the House." And once you've stopped asking questions (like why the gentleman pursuing Sharp and the Longhorn girls bothers to kidnap Sharp's estranged daughter) there are some minimal pleasures. Jones, for instance, doesn't mind the spunky company he keeps. And the actresses playing the cheerleaders -- Christina Milian, Paula Garces, Monica Keena, Vanessa Ferlito, and Kelli Garner -- seem to like him, too.
Of course, it's touch-and-go at first for Sharp and the Sharpettes. He doesn't like their loud music, their fear of food, or the fact that they don't wear enough clothes in front of him (the industrial-strength central-cooling unit he has installed solves that last one). They dislike the size of his pores and believe he knows nothing about women. Molly (Anne Archer), the lovely English professor who asks him out, might agree. But he's whipped into shape just in time for their big date.
Molly isn't the only woman hot for Sharp. One of the girls has a crush on him, but he's never less than completely paternal.
Molly suspects that something fishy might be afoot in that house, but Sharp eventually tells her the deal: ''Why would anyone want to be with a girl when he could be with a woman?" ''Man of the House" is so light it should wind up on the ''diet" shelf of the video store. But that moment raises an issue Jones seems to take seriously.
Wesley Morris can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.