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Pacifier, The Movie Review

originally posted many years ago

For veteran watchers of bad movies, The Pacifier will be a familiar experience. Like Hulk Hogan in Mr. Nanny and Arnold Schwarzenegger in Junior, The Pacifier puts muscle-man Vin Diesel in a terribly ironic, one-joke situation where the gravel-voiced, very manly actor is forced to do very un-manly things. Diesel plays nails-tough Navy Seal Shane Wolf whose latest mission is to essentially baby-sit five suburban kids. The plot contains a reason why Shane must protect them, but it doesn't really matter—the one goal of The Pacifier is to get Vin Diesel in as many anti-Vin Disel situations as possible. Diesel rides a pink bike with training wheels. Diesel sings a little boy to sleep with "The Panda Dance." Diesel drives a mini-van with a "World's Greatest Mom" bumper sticker. Diesel changes a diaper, directs "The Sound of Music," and sells Girl Scout cookies. Vin Diesel picks a bad movie project and is humiliated in its failure.

The joke, of course, is that Diesel's character approaches these "mom" activities like a Navy Seal would. When Diesel tells a bedtime story, he tells about how "the elves" attacked "the gnomes" using an "L-ambush formation." He wears a utility belt, not with grappling hooks and hand grenades, but (ho ho), juice boxes and baby bottles. I don't need to tell you that none of this is funny. One-joke movies can be passably entertaining if the lone joke actually works, but in The Pacifier, almost nothing functions properly. The few funny bits in the movie (all of which are provided via Vin Diesel's charm) are outweighed by poop jokes, and the element of family drama is so sappy it makes "Full House" look like American Beauty. The Pacifier was built for a non-existent audience, six-year-olds who are immature enough to dig fart jokes, but sadly, not old enough to stay awake through the entire movie.

Those of us who are older than six will find nothing to do but wonder how Vin Diesel got into a movie like this. Diesel is a wonderful actor in the right roles; he is naturally likable, charismatic, and confident in front of the camera. His work in The Pacifier is no exception, even when he's reduced to such infantile humor. Diesel's strengths shine through the material quite often, and viewers will be glad that Diesel was cast in this role, instead of some other annoying virile muscle-head.

Plot? What plot? Shane Wolf, for some reason, is assigned to protect the children of a government spy or something who was killed by a mysterious organization. His assassins were after his computer program, "GHOST," a generic McGuffin which exists to fall into the wrong hands. The kids' mother, Julie Plummer (Faith Ford) has to leave for Washington to examine the contents of her late husband's safety deposit box, leaving Shane alone with her five kids—Zoe (Brittany Snow), Seth (Max Thieriot), Lulu (Morgan York), Peter (Keegan and Logan Hoover), and a baby, whose role is to poop, vomit and so forth. Shane soon realizes that disciplining a bunch of kids is not as easy as keeping soldiers in line, and when Mrs. Plummer calls to say she'll gone for a few extra days, Shane finds himself in a real rut. But of course, circumstance and typical Walt Disney convention ensure that Shane bonds with the kids and learns a little about being a mom.

There's a lukewarm love story too, between Shane and the kids' principal (Lauren Graham), which eats up more time than we're willing to spend in this movie. Their romance is so underdeveloped and sidelined by the rest of the plot that it hardly matters at all. There's also an exceedingly unfunny side-plot involving the school's crazy vice principal (played poorly by the typically fantastic Brad Garrett), which doesn't produce a single good joke.

The only worthwhile moments in The Pacifier are when Vin Diesel is allowed to do what he wants, and not sell his soul to the horrible screenplay. Some of his exchanges with the kids, particularly Morgan York, are pretty funny, and prove the often overlooked fact that true acting talent can and will go beyond weak material if given room to work. Let it never be said that any of the child actors or Vin Diesel are responsible for The Pacifier's mess. They are far above this movie, looking down. And so are we.

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