It wasn’t bad enough that Vin Diesel had to pollute our multiplexes with his explosions-just-for-the-hell-of-it craptaculars, now he has to subject us to goddamn family films, strutting around lost and confused in The Pacifier like a Village Person who has just misplaced his hard hat. It’s not that The Pacifier is the worst way to spend two hours; it’s just that the only things I would consider less pleasurable will probably show up in the sequel to Saw, and I’d hate to ruin the surprises for you.
Billed as something akin to Vin Diesel’s version of Kindergarten Cop, The Pacifier is more like one-side of an episode of “Wife Swap,” with the Navy SEAL mom, Shane Wolfe (Vin Diesel), trading places with Julie Plummer (Faith Ford), who is sent to foreign lands for a few days to make way for the fish-out-of-water premise with which we are saddled after the family’s scientist father (Tate Donovan) is assassinated by bad people; and by bad people, the filmmakers mean: Asians. The top-secret invention (so secret, even the writers can’t reveal it) that the scientist developed and the terrorists are after, however, is stashed away at the Plummer household; Wolfe’s assignment is to protect (babysit) the Plummer kids until he can track it down and dispose of the bad people (i.e., Asians).
The Plummer children — aside from dealing with the death of their father — also have their own, much larger internal melodramas with which Shane must deal. Zoe (Brittany Snow) is having difficulty with her driver’s ed class; Seth (Max Thieriot) can’t deal with his wrestling coach (Brad Garret) because, like Vin Diesel, he secretly wants to act; Lulu (Morgan York) is getting harassed by Cub Scouts; and the two toddlers can’t seem to control their bodily functions. Shane, like any good “Wife Swap” participant, deals with the children’s personal problems by instilling in them his brand of discipline, which is at first rejected but ultimately accepted when he uses it to good effect against a couple of ninjas, thankfully saving the good, suburban white children from those evil, evil Asians.
The movie’s other subplot concerns Claire Fletcher (Lauren Graham), who plays the school principal and, ostensibly, Shane’s love interest, an unconvincing plot strand on a number of levels, principally because 1) Vin Diesel has to be Hollywood’s most famous closet queen; and 2) the ultra-cool Lauren Graham — who crossed all sorts of lines last year when she fucked Billy Bob Thornton’s Kris Kringle in Bad Santa — looks like she’s trying to get through The Pacifier as quick as possible, collect her paycheck, and go back to “Gilmore Girls” before anyone notices she’s in this movie.
The real problem with The Pacifier, however, is laziness. Because Vin Diesel was both Richard Riddick and xXx, the writers (Thomas Lennon and Ben Garant, responsible for the dreadful Taxi) apparently assumed the comedy was built in; instead of trying to script actual humor, they rely on the flimsy premise, choosing to believe a muscle-bound man dealing with the bowel movements of an infant or getting bitten by a duck is inherently funny. It is not.
Adam Shankman — the director behind Bringing Down the House, i.e., the lowest point in Steven Martin’s career — doesn’t help matters, showing again his uncanny ability to take a bad script and turn it into an even worse movie. It doesn’t hurt, of course, that Vin Diesel has all the comic timing of a stopwatch that’s been left overnight on train tracks. He is a one-note actor, and, unfortunately, in a family comedy, that note is as off-key as a Jennifer Lopez Grammy performance, minus the unintended humor.
Dustin Rowles is the publisher of Pajiba and managing partner of its parent company, which prefers to remain anonymous for reasons pertaining to public relations. He lives in Ithaca, New York.
The Pacifier / Dustin Rowles
Film | May 12, 2006 | Comments ()