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1 item from 2005

The Pacifier

23 March 2005 | The Hollywood Reporter | See recent The Hollywood Reporter news »

In Hollywood's search for the next Arnold Schwarzenegger, an action hero with the charm and wit to do comedy, first up is Vin Diesel doing a virtual remake of "Kindergarten Cop" for Disney called "The Pacifier". Diesel is not the guy Hollywood is looking for. He can do the action but looks awkward if not downright bewildered performing physical comedy involving a family of rebellious kids and one vicious pet duck. In his defense, the fatuous, forced and formulaic comedic vehicle provided by writers Thomas Lennon and Robert Ben Garant needs to be recalled for gross deficiencies unrelated to the star.

The success of "Are We There Yet?" demonstrates a high degree of tolerance by audiences in search of a laugh, but that film's star, Ice Cube, does have a flair for comedy where Diesel does not. Compounding the problem for Disney is the unlikelihood that Diesel's fans really want to see him in a gooey comedy such as "The Pacifier". Boxoffice should be modest after the initial weekend.

An opening sequence establishes Diesel as a highly conditioned and professional Navy SEAL. His team snatches a top scientist from Serbian kidnappers on a well-guarded boat only to have the scientist get assassinated in what looks like an inside job. Diesel's next assignment is to protect the family of the scientist, whose secret invention has not be found. This essentially means baby-sitting all five youngsters while mom goes to Geneva to see what is inside her late husband's safety deposit box.

After de rigueur diaper-changing and poo jokes that were old when they appeared 18 years ago in "Three Men and a Baby", family life settles down to a war zone. The kids, who illogically haven't been told of the danger they are in, understandably don't want the supervision of a disciplinarian. Then when Diesel defeats a pair of home-invading ninjas, they do realize the danger. This gives Diesel the free time to solve all the problems of each of the three older children.

In the case of Seth (Max Thieriot), this means directing a community production of "The Sound of Music", in which Seth stars. I kid you not. For young Lulu Morgan York), he teaches her Girl Scout troop to kick the butts of the Boy Scouts who are bothering them. Yes, he does. And for Zoe (Brittany Snow), he chases off a boyfriend she really doesn't need, then listens to her pour out her heart about her dead father.

Carol Kane, playing a vaguely Eastern European nanny who then disappears from the movie, and Brad Garrett, playing an overzealous, macho wrestling coach and school vice principal, mug their way through these roles to ludicrous results. Lauren Graham, as a sweetly innocuous school principal, provides a lame love interest for Diesel.

Much of the gags are arbitrary and far-fetched. When Diesel wants to follow Seth to see what he is up to, he grabs a child's bicycle rather than jump into the family van. When the kids desperately need to call cops for help, Zoe does jump into the van and wastes precious minutes breaking every traffic law in the Motor Vehicle Code rather than pick up a cell phone.

Director Adam Shankman fails to impose any comedic shape to the disjointed and episodic screenplay. Jokes never build, stagings are clumsy, and the whole thing feels as if it were slapped together in haste. Technical credits on the mostly Toronto-based production are unimpressive.


Buena Vista Pictures

Walt Disney Pictures in association with Spyglass Entertainment


Director: Adam Shankman

Screenwriters: Thomas Lennon, Robert Ben Garant

Producers: Roger Birnbaum, Gary Barber, Jonathan Glickman

Executive producers: Adam Shankman, Jennifer Gibgot, Derek Evans, Garrett Grant, George Zakk

Director of photography: Peter James

Production designer: Linda DeScenna

Music: John Debney

Costumes: Kirston Mann

Editor: Christopher Greenbury


Shane Wolfe: Vin Diesel

Principal Claire Fletcher: Lauren Graham

Julie: Faith Ford

Zoe: Brittany Snow

Seth: Max Thieriot

Lulu: Morgan York

Capt. Fawcett: Chris Potter

Helga: Carol Kane

MPAA rating: PG

Running time -- 95 minutes »

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