The Pacifier Review
By Shawn McKenzie 03/04/2005
What has happened to Vin Diesel’s career? He was an actor who had so much promise. In 1998, he was amongst a great ensemble cast in Saving Private Ryan. In 1999, he did a great vocal performance in the animated feature The Iron Giant. Then, in 2000, he did two great movies: Boiler Room and Pitch Black, the latter of which catapulted his career into overdrive. Somehow, after that, his career went downhill. The slide started artistically, with decent to bad blockbuster hits like The Fast and the Furious and XXX, both of which made millions but weren’t exactly critical darlings. Then he started to slide in the box office receipts, with A Man Apart and The Chronicles of Riddick becoming semi-bombs (though I actually liked the latter one.) Now he is trying to go after the family flick market with The Pacifier, and unless I am wrong and this movie becomes a huge hit, I think that we are heading towards Ben Affleck territory.
Lt. Shane Wolfe (Diesel) is a Navy S.E.A.L. who’s been assigned to rescue a kidnapped government scientist named Howard Plummer (Tate Donovan.) Howard has developed a satellite program onto a CD-ROM called G.H.O.S.T. (I forgot what it stands for) that thwarts any country from launching their nuclear weapons. The rescue mission is successful, but Shane lets his guard down while Howard had attempted to call home from his cell. Some leftover assassins kill Howard and Shane is left wounded. When Shane recovers two months later, he is reassigned by Capt. Bill Fawcett (Chris Potter) to protect Howard’s family while Bill goes along with Howard’s grieving widow, Julie (Faith Ford), to Zurich, Switzerland, to open a safe-deposit box that may have G.H.O.S.T. in it. He feels guilty for not being successful at stopping Howard’s assassination, so he bitterly takes the assignment to make up for his mistake. He meets Julie’s five kids: teenagers Zoe (Brittany Snow) and Seth (Max Thieriot), the older kids; 8-year-old Lulu (Morgan York) and 3-year-old Peter (twins Kegan and Logan Hoover), the middle kids; and Baby Tyler (Bo and Luke Vink, also twins.) They also have a pet duck named Gary. He treats them casually…calling them Red 1 through 4 and Red Baby, so he doesn’t need to learn anyone’s names. He thinks that the assignment is easy, since the family’s nanny, Helga (Carol Kane), can take care of them. That frees him to look around the house for the CD-ROM, in case it isn’t in the safety deposit box. Julie is supposed to be gone for two days, and in that time, the kids drive him crazy in their attempt to rebel against Shane’s strict rules and drive Helga to quit. Shane puts in security devices and strap their arms with tracking devices, so he can see where they are going at all times and fight off any potential enemies, like Zoe’s boyfriend Scott (Kyle Schmid), whom he catches crawling up the building one night. All of this activity going on next door bothers the neighbors, Mr. and Mrs. Chun (Denis Akiyama and Mung-Ling Tsui), and they are upset about it. Since he is forced to do everything now, he has to bring along all five kids to Chesapeake Public School (they mention that it is a school for grades K through 12.) Principal Claire Fletcher (Lauren Graham) and Vice Principal Murney (Brad Garrett) informs him that Zoe has skipped 23 of her 24 driving lessons, and Seth wants to quit the wrestling team for other activities that may be devious in nature. As for Lulu, she is a Firefly Girl (kind of like the Girl Scouts) who has trouble defending herself against the Grizzlies (kind of like the Boy Scouts) who destroy her cookie stand every day. As Shane gets to know the kids, he starts to like them, and he helps them with their problems, like teaching Zoe how to drive; dealing with Murney, a.k.a. the Mernanator, who doubles as the wrestling coach and thinks that Seth is a slacker; and teaching Lulu and her fellow Fireflies how to defend themselves against the Grizzlies. He also finds himself attracted to Claire, whom herself was a former Petty Officer Third Class Navy S.E.A.L. With Julie still unable to get to the safety deposit box, because she is unable to tell the bank manager (Jean Pearson) the password to retrieve it, Shane has to keep defending the Plummer household for longer than two days. Meanwhile, two ninjas target the house looking for the CD-ROM, and Shane must protect the house for fear that they might be in more danger than he had originally thought.
I know why Diesel did this movie. He was going after the family and/or comedy market, a genre he hadn’t fully tapped yet. While he has proven himself in drama and action, comedy is not his strong suit. Case in point: in The Fast and the Furious, his character had no sense of humor, but Tyrese, the man who replaced him in the sequel 2 Fast 2 Furious, did, and that made it more enjoyable (at least for me…I just wish that we could have replaced Paul Walker as well.) There is a reason why Diesel most likely turned down the sequels for Furious and XXX to do this movie, and that reason is…
Arnold Schwarzenegger. Until recently, Schwarzenegger chose projects that fit his career. He was able to go from action to comedy, and he excelled in both (okay…the other stuffy critics may disagree with me, but can you think of any other actor who has had more memorable catchphrases than him in the last 25 years?) Also, if you noticed, he never attempted to do a regular drama. He obviously is an awesome action star, and he actually surprised most moviegoers at his comedic skills. I think that his ability to do comedy started with those clichéd but still funny “zingers” that he would insert into most of his ‘80s/early ‘90s movies, like, “You’re a funny man, Sully, I like you. That’s why I’m going to kill you last” (from Commando) and “Consider that a divorce” (from Total Recall, after he kills the Sharon Stone character.) After doing all of those action movies, he did his first actual comedy, with 1988’s Twins. Two years later, he struck gold again with Kindergarten Cop (which is most certainly the blueprint for which this movie of question in this review is based on.) While his follow-up comedies…1992’s action comedy Last Action Hero, 1994’s Junior, and 1996’s Jingle All the Way…weren’t exactly big box office successes (well…Jingle was a semi-hit), all of them were enjoyable, at least to me (yes…including Hero.) Overall, Schwarzenegger’s hits far outweigh his misses (I won’t even get into his politics though.)
Why did I go into this bit about Schwarzenegger? Like I said, he has chosen his projects wisely, and he has a sense of humor. I think that Diesel jumped into the comedy genre a little too early without proving first that he has a sense of humor. His next project is the Sidney Lumet-directed crime drama Find Me Guilty (which you may have seen a clip of during the Oscars this year.) I hope that it might return him to the realm of drama, and I hope that it will give him a chance to develop a sense of humor (if that goofy wig from the Oscar clip doesn’t do the trick.)
Okay…enough about Diesel. Why does this movie suck in general? It is incredibly stupid throughout. The acting is so dumb from everyone that it hurts all of them involved. I’m actually not going to blame the cast though (except Diesel.) The supporting cast are all proven TV comedy champs (and a drama champ, in the case of Snow.) Of course, Graham is one of my favorites. Not only is she gorgeous, she has been robbed year after year for an Emmy nomination for her work in “The Gilmore Girls.” Garrett has come off of two back-to-back Emmy wins for his work on “Everybody Loves Raymond,” and he is currently enjoying one of the best seasons of that show so far (which, unfortunately, is the show’s last.) While the show is ratings starved, Snow is great on NBC’s “American Dreams.” I wish that this movie would be the natural evolution of all of their careers, but I don’t see that happening. The other big names…Kane and Ford…had little to do to display their talents here (though Kane was somewhat memorable in her few scenes; Ford should have stayed on ABC’s “Hope & Faith,” because basically she was just doing an extended cameo.)
No…the blame lies on director Adam Shankman and screenwriters Thomas Lennon and Ben Garant. Shankman is obviously a hit-and-miss director, because he had a hit with the Steve Martin/Queen Latifah 2003 hit Bringing Down the House, and two misses (at least critically, and I will join in that opinion) with 2002’s A Walk to Remember and 2001’s The Wedding Planner. As for Lennon and Garant, their only other theatrical screenplay was last year’s Queen Latifah/Jimmy Fallon bomb Taxi, which I heard wasn’t very good (I unfortunately didn’t get a chance to check it out myself.)
The problem was that the story itself was lame. The outlining story itself is a huge rip-off from Schwarzenegger’s Cop, but without the same fun for adults. While Cop was rated PG-13, it still appealed to both kids and their parents. This movie was rated PG, and it feels like a PG-rated movie intended only for kids. The movie will appeal to kids, but the parents will be checking their watches, waiting for the movie to end. While the movie was only around 90 minutes long, it felt like it was hitting the two-hour mark when I saw it at the movie screening. An example of why the movie was so brainless was a scene involving York’s character. Shane gave Lulu a couple of lessons in self-defense, and for some reason, that was all it took for her to take out a trained ninja. Did she think that she was in the Spy Kids movies?
The Pacifier may likely be a hit. With Son of the Mask being a box-office bomb and Robots not arriving yet, there isn’t a lot of movies for families to see this weekend and this movie might actually have a decent first weekend. Make no mistake though…after the parents check this one out, the word of mouth will sink it. The only reason that I am giving this movie the rating that I gave it instead of a lower one was that kids will love it, and the supporting cast did their best with the material they had. The parents might want to just bring their kids to the movie by themselves (please see a matinee) and pick them up later, because if they have to watch it with them, it will damage their eyes from all of the constant eye rolling. As for Diesel…he really needs to get a hit…not only in box office receipts, but in critical praise. I hope that the upcoming Lumet movie will do the trick, because I still somewhat like the guy, and I want to see him succeed. Vin…please get a real sense of humor!
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