New Disney release pits action hero Vin Diesel against
Friday, March 4, 2005
by Alex Stroup, MousePlanet editor
Let's start this review with a bit of a homework assignment
for the reader.
Go to your typewriter (a more visually dramatic scene than using a computer)
and write a screenplay about a guy who is used to authority, structure,
rigid codes of behavior, and some violence. Now write a fish-out-of-water
story in which he is put in charge of people oblivious to all of these
What did you write? OK, there's a good chance you wrote a story about
a grizzled Texas sheriff who finds himself protecting a group of irrepressible
college cheerleaders. But that movie hit theaters last weekend.
So let's focus on coming up with something completely original. How about
a grizzled Navy S.E.A.L. who finds himself protecting a family of five
irrepressible children? Now, write that script. Odds are that with the
exception of ninjas and a pet duck, your script would completely replicate
The Pacifier. The story is thoroughly formulaic. That said, it
is also completely unobjectionable, and how much you enjoy it will depend
on how much you enjoy the formula.
© Buena Vista Pictures Distribution.
Fish-out-of-water stories have a lot of built-in appeal since we all
know the discomfort of being in a new situation, particularly for children
when almost every situation is new. They also allow for an unusually kind
type of humor. Taking a person out of his element means fun can be had
at the expense of various people without meanness, and you honestly can
laugh with the characters rather than at them.
All of this makes the genre particularly amenable to family entertainment,
and with the exception of an opening action sequence, director Adam Shankman
keeps things safely within the range of all ages. Guns are drawn but not
fired, swords are sticks, and though nobody really does, you expect the
characters to walk around saying gosh darnit. Even if this type of movie
isn't for you (and it won't be for most people over the age of 12) it
does have the requisite scatological bits to keep the young boys laughing.
Acknowledging that formula and familiarity are not necessarily bad things
The Pacifier still has several weaknesses that will keep this in
the realm of children's entertainment. The movie is not long on logical
plausibility, which is hardly unexpected; it is the kind of movie where
someone can throw three grenades and get six explostions. Another more
minor element that really bothered me was what I think of as sitcom lighting.
Every scene is completely and thoroughly lit, giving the whole thing a
made-for-TV feeling that doesn't make something a bad movie but does make
me wonder why I went to all the trouble of leaving the house.
The biggest fault though is that Vin Diesel somehow never sells himself
as a Navy S.E.A.L. Somehow when surrounded by children, Faith Ford, and
Lauren Graham, he actually seems smaller than he is. His efforts to project
authority are so over-the-top that I rejected it outright. At the same
time the movie was playing up his musculatureone of the movies better
lines has a 10-year-old girl asking if one day she'll have boobs as
big as hisI was wondering how it was possible that Brittany Snow
(Zoe Plummer, the oldest child under his watch, best known from the television
show American Dreams) seemed his equal in stature.
Among the children Diesel's Shane Wolfe ends up protecting, the standout
is 10-year-old Lulu, played by Morgan York. She reminded me somewhat of
a six-year-old Macauley Culkin, or more recently, Dakota Fanning, in her
ability to look adults in the eye and hold those precious movie conversations
while still seeming childlike. The younger two children are too young
for active involvement and are more props than people.
Disney family movies have always provided a tame representation of teenage
rebellion, but it is taken to absurd lengths in The Pacifier. Having
recently lost their father, it is understandable that the older children
are having some behavioral problems that manifest themselves by skipping
drivers' ed or sneaking a boyfriend into the house. The second oldest,
Seth (Max Thieriot), lashes out by
well, I can't quite revealing
what he did, but let's just say that any parent of a teenager would love
if their child lashed out so nicely.
Lauren Graham and Brad Garrett also appear as principal and vice-principal
of the kids' school and provide the romance and conflict the script you
wrote would require. A subplot involving the kids' principal (Lauren Graham)
and vice-principal (Brad Garrett) provide the requisite romance and conflict
though they're hardly noteworthy performances with Garrett in particular
overplaying. It also plays to the logical plausibility problem mentioned
before that Bethesda, Marylandan area with more than 50,000 peopleapparently
has a single school for all grade levels. The presence of Faith Ford only
reinforces the feeling of watching a TV movie. And out of respect for
her past work, I won't even mention Carol Kane's presence.
The Pacifier really isn't a movie that many adults are going to
enjoy. It is, though, a movie that a lot of parents will enjoy watching
with their children. It is pretty stupid, overacted, and completely predictablebut
parents won't have to cover eyes or ears or explain later any touchy issues
(well, parents may have to explain why Vin Diesel has big boobs).
Thoughts, questions, or comments? Contact Alex here.
The Pacifier is a Walt Disney Pictures release
Wide theatrical release: Friday, March 4, 2005
Directed by Adam Shankman.
Screenplay by Thomas Lennon and Ben Garat.
Starring: Vin Diesel, Faith Ford, Lauren Graham, Brad
Garrett, Brittany Snow, Max Thieriot, Morgan York
Rated PG for action violence, language, and rude humor.
Running time: 91 minutes
Alex's Rating: 5 out of 10
Alex Stroup is a degreed librarian with an undergraduate degree in history. An avid reader, movie buff, and devoted information junkie, Alex currently lives and works in the Northern California Bay Area. Alex is also the CEO of MousePlanet.
Click here to contact Alex.