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The Pacifier

As 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, and humor.

Children are intelligent, and unfortunately The Pacifier completely ignores this altogether, almost to the extent of insult.

As 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.

Naturally, Wolfe 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.

Wolfe settles 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 too easy.

The 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 film.

Ladies 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!

In films 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.


Mario Anima

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