U.S. Release Date: March 4, 2005
Distributor: Buena Vista
Director: Adam Shankman
Writer: Thomas Lennon & Ben Garant
Producer: Gary Barber, Roger Birnbaum, Jennifer Gibgot, Jonathan Glickman, Adam Shankman (executive), George Zakk (executive)
Composer: John Debney
Cast: Vin Diesel, Lauren Graham, Brittany Snow, Max Thieriot
Running Time: 1 hour and 31 minutes
MPAA Rating: PG (action violence, language and rude humor)

Diesel Gets Physical in Dim Kid Comedy
by Scott Holleran

Director Adam Shankman's comic vehicle for action star Vin Diesel, The Pacifier, is a middle of the road picture like his previous effort, Bringing Down the House. A clichéd plot featuring a dim Diesel, who shows up for the role, is offset by ex-dancer Shankman's knack for depicting physical action. The Pacifier offers poop jokes with action.

Diesel plays a Navy S.E.A.L. (for Sea, Air and Land) whose mission to rescue a defense contractor goes awry. Turns out the scientist is working on a way of protecting the nation from outside attack—not a bad idea with communists and ayatollahs threatening to nuke U.S. cities. But he winds up dead, leaving Diesel to look for the mysterious plans while looking after the deceased's wife and kids.

For the next hour, it's like watching Kindergarten Cop with more at stake, with Diesel as the muscled jarhead who is clueless about children. The kids take the news that Dad's dead with alarming ease. When Diesel's dude shows up to protect them, the family—which includes Faith Ford as mom—is more concerned with schedules and diapers than with grief over Dad's death.

Each kid gets an issue and, while they are easy to tell apart, the litter of kiddie characters is as interesting as oatmeal. Another Brittany (last name: Snow) plays a petulant teen. A squirt is on hand for cuteness. There is a baby, too, in case you didn't see the pile of diaper doo-doo coming. Diesel is slimed by every form of human waste.

Other kids include the latest girl (Morgan York) to be given the demeanor of a depressed housewife. Max Thieriot gets the best part as the quiet, withdrawn teenager whose dilemma, which involves asserting himself, allows Diesel the closest thing to character development. Carol Kane plays a Romanian nanny and there's a duck, too. The kids pass gas, Kane falls down the stairs, and the duck bites Diesel. The gags are small, trivial domestic episodes that don't really work. After all, the dad was assassinated by those who seek to nuke America and the enemy's still on the loose.

The action picks up once Diesel starts hanging out at the kids' school, which makes no sense but it does permit comedian Brad Garrett to step in as a macho wrestling coach with a few decent jokes and the movie's funniest scene—a match between Garrett and Diesel—which gives Shankman the chance to use his skill for live action cartoonishness. The Pacifier wraps up the tidy affair—as the enemy returns—with a nod to Spy Kids, complete with requisite sequel holes. The disparate family is brought together with Diesel to fight the bad guys.

Diesel probably deserves better than this and, with hard features, an occasional lisp and his bored, bald look, it is hard to tell if he's up to the task. Packed with neither enough action nor enough contrast between his Navy S.E.A.L. character and the little dumplings, he is not responsible for what amounts to kiddiesquat.

Cheaper by the Dozen
Twelve Angry Kids
Kicking and Screaming
Kid Soccer Pic's All Shtick
Bringing Down the House
Housesitter From the Ghetto

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