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The Pacifier   C+

Walt Disney Pictures / Spyglass Entertainment

Year Released: 2005
MPAA Rating: PG
Director: Adam Shankman
Writer: Thomas Lennon, Robert Ben Garant
Cast: Vin Diesel, Lauren Graham, Faith Ford, Brittany Snow, Max Thieriot, Chris Potter, Carol Kane, Brad Garrett, Morgan York.

Review by Sean O'Connell

Vin Diesel's bid to follow in Arnold Schwarzenegger's massive footsteps has reached the Kindergarten Cop stage. The fact that The Pacifier isn't a kindergarten flop speaks volumes about Vin's (gasp!) versatility, and acknowledges a welcome chemistry with a charming cast that isn't even old enough to drink.

Director Adam Shankman (Bringing Down the House) opens his kiddie comedy with Vin in full video-game mode. The buff and bald bruiser plays Lt. Shane Wolf, head of the Navy SEAL unit ordered to rescue Professor Howard Plummer (Tate Donovan), inventor of the mysterious G.H.O.S.T. program that, if improperly used, could trigger a nuclear war. Wolf fails, taking a bullet as he loses his target. He's hospitalized for two months, and emerges eager to do whatever it takes to retrieve G.H.O.S.T. before it falls into the wrong hands.

Before you can say The Babysitters Club, macho Vin has moved in with the Plummer family. His assignment is twofold -- protect Plummer's five children while simultaneously locating the lost weapons program. His new duties eventually include changing diapers, directing a musical theater group, giving driving lessons, and leading a Girl Scout troop on their all-important cookie-selling mission.

Pacifier actually improves once Shankman allows his formula to take hold, which happens right around the time Carol Kane's painfully unfunny foreign nanny is shuttled from the suburban abode and Vin is able to whip his unruly crew into shape. There's nothing Vin won't try in the name of comedy. He dives into sewers, smashes his hand into dirty diapers, and pursues villains on a girl's two-speed bicycle. But he's also having fun, and his enthusiasm is mildly contagious. Family-man Vin actually runs a gamut of emotions, expressing four different facial expressions throughout Pacifier, which is three more than I expected.

Two supporting players happily join the festivities. Lauren Graham brings a cute and cuddly vibe to her love-interest role. Shankman also finds a fine foil for his hero in smug Brad Garrett. The lumbering Everybody Loves Raymond co-star stands out here as a discipline-obsessed school vice principal prone to bullying students in his charge. Mind you, this is long on concept and short on comedy. Pacifier loves its soldier-in-suburbia setup so much that it forces a few jokes to fit the mold, giving new meaning to the term "weekend warrior" in the process. Shankman's uninspired direction doesn't elevate the basic script, credited to Thomas Lennon and Robert Ben Garant.

What Shankman does show a knack for, ironically, is the film's limited action sequences and momentary fight choreography. When Vin fistfights two ninjas and Zoe Plummer (Brittany Snow) leads a thrilling car chase through the neighborhood, The Pacifier briefly raises our pulse. Since Shankman can't quite master comedy, maybe he and his leading man would both be better served if they teamed for a straight-up action thriller somewhere down the line.

Review published 03.02.2005.

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