family films go, The Pacifier hardly pacifies.
It's not simply that the premise is trite, because that
would be an entirely too easy approach to explaining how
dreadful this film actually is. The issue that Disney doesn’t
seem to be able to get over is that just because a project
such as this is intended to please the younger set doesn’t
mean that it has to be completely void of all logic, reason,
are intelligent, and unfortunately The Pacifier
completely ignores this altogether, almost to the extent
a Director, Adam Shankman continues to struggle with pacing,
especially in regards to comedy. One need only look at the
awkward execution of slapstick bits in Bringing Down
the House for evidence in this regard. With his latest
vehicle, Vin Diesel wishes to prove that he is not the typecast
muscle that Pitch Black and XXX would
lead audiences to believe. The problem is, ninety percent
of the preface for The Pacifier hinges on the stereotypical
action hero to create the kind of conflict necessary to
make a film such as this funny, and Vin fails to deliver.
Instead we are
greeted with the nation’s softest Navy S.E.A.L., Shane
Wolfe (Diesel). You know the setup; a hardened military
man with a past who hates to let anyone in close is paired
up with a group of stubborn kids who eventually win him
over after a series of humorous conflicts. The only problem
here is that Vin lacks the conviction to play Shane as a
“hardened military man.” Maybe “lack”
isn’t the correct word here, because we all know he
is capable of pulling this sort of thing off. The puzzling
thing is he chooses to pull back, giving Shane a soft exterior
even when he’s supposed to be tough as nails. He speaks
with a lisp, and the sequences intended to portray him as
a bullheaded oppressor in the company of the Plummer children
come off half handed.
In the end, it
just isn’t funny.
On his last mission,
Wolfe fails to protect Howard Plummer (Tate Donovan), the
nation’s leading security expert. Someone is after
his latest defense security technology, called “Ghost,”
and rather than re-abducting Plummer they choose to kill
him instead. Apparently the desire to obtain possession
of Ghost took a backseat to making Howard, himself, a ghost.
is chosen to protect Plummer’s children while his
widow, Julie (Faith Ford) is escorted to the big city by
Capt. Bill Fawcett (Chris Potter) to retrieve her husband’s
safety deposit box, which is rumored to house the secret
location of Ghost. What Government places the lives children
in the hands of the man who failed to protect their father?
Forget logic, press forward.
into his role of caretaker a little to easily while Julie
is conveniently forced to stay in the big city longer because
she doesn’t know the secret password needed to gain
access to the safety deposit box. Meanwhile, each of the
Plummer children has troubles of their own which can only
be fixed by Wolfe.
Those that stand
out are Zoe (Brittany Snow), who has failed driver’s
education too many times to count, Seth (Max Thieriot),
who is plagued by abuse from Vice Principal Murney (Brad
Garrett) due to poor attendance for wrestling practice,
and Lulu (Morgan York), whose girl scout themed troop are
being harassed by a troop of boys whenever they attempt
to sell cookies at the local Costco. Wolfe steps in and
solves these problems in due time, but it all feels a little
film is further troubled by a few completely arresting attempts
at humor. The first comes early on when Helga (Carol Kane)
is soiled with vomit while holding Baby Tyler (Bo and Luke
Vink). Her reply is spoken in her native tongue and therefore
subtitled, but the offense is still vastly jarring. Believe
me, I never thought I’d see an infant referred to
as a “Evil little puke machine” in a Disney
and Gentlemen, I give you The Pacifier, and this
is the tip of the iceberg.
In another ill-fated
gag, Principal Claire Fletcher (Lauren Graham) urges Wolfe
to confront Seth when he is caught at school with a bleach
blonde hairdo accompanying a confiscated Nazi swastika armband.
Yes, you read
that correctly. In a Disney film!
such as these, simple misunderstandings almost always lead
to trouble when simple communication could solve the bulk
of the issues at hand. Such is the case with The Pacifier.
After tailing Seth on his apparently seedy activity, Wolfe
discovers that the troubled youth is actually involved in
a stage production of The Sound of Music. Conveniently,
the Director (Scott Thompson) of the production walks off
after another atrocious rehearsal, which leads to Wolfe
directing the musical in his stead.
With cameos by
the always enjoyable Carol Kane and Scott Thompson, one
would expect that a film such as this should yield a few
laughs here or there. The problem is that the bulk of the
comedy is intended to stem from Shane Wolfe’s fish
out of waters scenarios. It seems no one informed Vin Diesel
that the film was intended to be a comedy. Seth, as it turns
out, has a reasonable explanation for his actions, whether
or not Diesel does remains to be seen.