Judge David Johnson fondly recalls the time his family was watched over by a government special agent because of a national security secret his father held while Soviet agents tried to infiltrate his house. Man, 1985 was a crazy year!
This Navy SEAL meets his match.
Superstar action jock Vin Diesel (XXX) takes a different tack in this PG-rated Disney family film about a rugged Navy SEAL ordered to protect the family of a U.S. scientist. The hilarity is presumed to ensue once this clueless hardass is juxtaposed with poopy diapers. Is this worth your nickel, or is it just a feeble Kindergarten Cop-out?
Facts of the Case
The film opens with a high-octane rescue mission, as special operation soldier Shane Wolfe (Diesel) leads his squad aboard an enemy cruise ship to free a kidnapped researcher who holds the secrets to a state-of-the-art missile defense program called GHOST. After some explosions and gunfire, Wolfe and company manage to escape, but before they can evacuate, the bad guys catch up, murdering the scientist and putting a bullet into Wolfe.
Two months later, a recuperated Wolfe is reassigned to the GHOST case, but in a different capacity. With the death of the big brains behind the project, the government is left without a clue where the actual system is. So Judie Plummer (Faith Ford, TV's Hope and Faith), the scientist's wife, is taken to Switzerland to access her husband's safe deposit box.
Wolfe is shuttled to the Plummer household to watch over the kids by himself (?!) while also snooping around for any signs of GHOST. Little does he know that what awaits is a fearsome assemblage of Hollywood kid stereotypes, and it will take all of his skill and training to manage the house, save the world, and keep his khakis free of baby vomit.
First off, I have to unleash this tired disclaimer: The Pacifier was created and engineered as a kids' movie (indeed, its PG rating is the first giveaway, a label reserved only for animated fare, as everything else these days is swallowed up by the all-encompassing PG-13 beast). So kids might enjoy it. There's nothing really offensive here, and the madcap on-screen antics may in fact entertain those of the prepubescent ilk.
But I am not a kid. And if I were a kid, I still think I would intensely dislike this film.
/jaded adult (ON)
There are so many things that irritated me about this film I'd suck up the site's bandwidth writing about them all. The Pacifier is a movie with no clue to its identity: Is it a screwball comic outing or a comedy/drama mix? I have no idea. What I should tell you is to skip this film and watch either The Naked Gun for the former or Kindergarten Cop for the latter. Or maybe play both movies simultaneously on two television sets and try to watch both at the same time. The resulting eyestrain will be far more entertaining than The Pacifier.
This movie has all the characteristics of a zany piece of goofball goofiness. Common sense is denied, characters do things no normal person would ever do, and set pieces are manufactured to be as silly as possible with no thought for realism. But the flick still wants to be taken as credible.
So I present to you:
Examples of Why The Pacifier Is Stupid and Hurts My Head:
• The kids are shallow cutouts we've all seen before. There's the smarmy teenage girl, the moody teenage boy, the precocious little daughter, and the poop factory of a baby. Obviously they give Wolfe a hard time (pulling profoundly dangerous pranks like dumping vegetable oil on the wooden staircase), but what do you think the chances are that by the end of the film everyone will be warm and fuzzy with each other? Pretty good, I'd say.
• Brad Garrett's idiotic character. While The Pacifier wants to be grounded in reality, what with its family-in-danger/National-Security/characters-learns-stuff pseudo-drama premise, prepare to be constantly assaulted with a barrage of nonsensical contrivances. Garrett (Everybody Loves Raymond) plays Vice Principal Murney, an over-the-top a-hole who takes pleasure in insulting children, then—because of a depth perception problem, I'm assuming—challenges Vin Diesel to a wrestling match in front of the whole school. Right.
• Gags that make no logical sense. (A) In an effort to keep the family's nanny from leaving, Wolfe tackles her. (B) His investigative instincts abandoning him, Wolfe pursues a homing device he's placed on the kids into the sewers, then opts to jump into the fecal matter, resulting in a pointless and disgusting scene where he walks into the house covered in excrement. (C) The little girl and her knockoff girl scout troop are menaced by some older boys, so after a convenient montage, the girls are suddenly masters of judo and manage to bind and gag their tormentors.
• That stupid underground lair. I suppose this could be considered a spoiler, but who cares. Wolfe stumbles upon Dr. Plummer's secret storage facility under the house, which turns out to be a gaping stainless steel hallway rigged with elaborate booby traps. How was that installed without anyone noticing?
Not to mention that not a frame of this film is funny. Sure, it's a kids' flick, but there's nothing in the Encyclopedia of Children's Movies that mandates that fare for youngsters has to be free of charm and wit.
A big part of the problem is the screenplay. The film's writers, two guys I actually really like and would usually offer unflinching support—Thomas Lennon and Robert Ben Garant (veterans of The State and Reno 911!)—have turned in what must be one of the laziest mainstream scripts ever put to film. Stupid holes in logic abound (though that should be no surprise by this point), the most egregious of which is the explanation of why Wolfe is stuck with the family for longer than the 48 hours he was supposed to serve: In order to access the safe deposit box in Switzerland, Mrs. Plummer has to give the secret code to a bank. In a throwaway scene she says, "We've been here for two weeks already!" Ah, that explains this major plot point! And then you've got the overused montage device that substitutes for any substantial character arcs, plus plenty more narrative missteps (why is Wolfe not bound or incapacitated at the end? Don't the bad guys know he's a super badass?), all mixed with jokes that, frankly, are not funny. Sorry, boys, but first Taxi and now this? How about we focus instead on getting The State out on DVD as soon as possible?
While I like how Vin Diesel has decided to try something new, this just isn't working for him here. His drill sergeant shtick grows tired fast, as he barks orders and tells everyone to stand at attention and this and that. And the payoff we all expect, when he grows to love the kids, is more abrupt than organic (again, a reflection on the poor script).
Sound and video quality are all very good, as these Disney discs usually are: a 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer and a Dolby Digital 5.1 surround mix. Accompanying the feature is a modest assortment of bonus features. Two short on-the-set featurettes highlight Brad Garrett (focusing more on the unflattering one-piece wrestling jumper he had to wear than on the idiot character he was playing) and Vin Diesel (trumpeting Vin's true-life attachment to the kids; I have to admit he seems like a really nice guy).
Director Adam Shankman, Lennon, and Garant deliver a lively audio commentary that is, sadly, funnier than the film they're commenting on. Finishing things off: a boring blooper reel, a handful of deleted scenes, and a trailer
/jaded adult (OFF)
Look, I know I was probably too hard on this flick. But I don't want to rubber-stamp the movie: "It's for kids so who care if it's crap?" Yes, kids may in fact enjoy it, gleaning significantly more entertainment value out of it than I did. But for the adults watching with them, I tell you this: You will suffer.
The Pacifier…wait for it…sucks.
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