Los Angeles Times

'Man of the House'


Classic Hollywood typecasting suggests that a Texas Ranger be played by either Tommy Lee Jones or Chuck Norris.

And unless you're casting a lame television show, Norris' name immediately would be crossed off the list.

So, it's Jones who fills the boots in "Man of the House," a sweetly benign comedy that allows the actor to lampoon his tough guy image honed in "The Fugitive" and "U.S. Marshals."

The grim, stone-faced Jones plays lawman Roland Sharp, who finds himself undercover protecting a quintet of five scantily clad, over-energetic University of Texas cheerleaders -- all witnesses to a murder Sharp is investigating.

Since none of the girls (Kelli Garner, Vanessa Ferlito, Monica Keena, Christina Milian and Paula Garces) can I.D. the shooter conclusively, Sharp moves into their girly dwelling, protecting them by posing as an assistant cheerleading coach.

Immediately, as if right out of a Twisted Sister video, Sharp fails the "if-it's-too-loud-you're-too-old" music test and a battle of wills ensues as the girls just wanna have fun, and Sharp just wants to protect them.

As Sharp becomes a surrogate daddy of sorts, they coach him on a date with a local college professor (Anne Archer) and even counsel him about how to connect with his own daughter. But classic conflicts abound as delicate frilly things crowd Sharp out of the bathroom and the girls' flesh-baring tendencies cause a disruption. In my notebook, I even wrote: "Every cliche but a makeover," but promptly crossed this out when the cheer squad gives him a facial, cucumber slices and all.

Though Jones' young supporting actresses do a fine job, director Stephen Herek ("Rock Star") doesn't really help us learn their names or keep them apart. There's Barb, who has a crush on Sharp and cheats on a Shakespeare paper, but otherwise there's little to distinguish the others.

Cedric The Entertainer comes in for a bit of comic relief as an ex-con turned preacher, or as he puts it, "a prophet in a non-profit" organization. He pries the movie away from Jones for a few scenes as he challenges the girls to an "old school" cheer-off in his church. Though he missed the '90s because of prison time, no one told him that the M.C. Hammer glasses and dance moves went out of fashion.

"Man of the House" wasn't screened in advance for critics, usually the sure-fire sign of a bad movie. Despite its contrivances, this isn't a movie so bad that Revolution Studios needed to abandon it. It's not a perfect film, by far, but Jones' playful banter with his cheerleading charges remains light and just this side of predictable.

"Man of the House"

Running time: 1:37; rated PG-13 for violence, sexual content, crude humor and a drug reference.

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