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March 2005

By Julian Roman

The Pacifier

Distributor: Walt Disney Pictures
Director: Adam Shankman
Producers: Gary Barber, Roger Birnbaum, Jonathan Glickman
Screenwriter: Thomas Lennon & Robert Ben Garant
Cinematographer: Peter James
Composer: John Debney
Cast: Vin Diesel, Lauren Graham, Faith Ford, Brittany Snow, Max Thieriot, Chris Potter, Carol Kane, Brad Garrett, Morgan York




There comes a time in every action star's career when he or she decides to branch out and do something different. This career move is based purely on longevity. Action films appeal to a certain audience and if you want to last in Hollywood, you have to please everyone. The surefire route is a broad based family comedy. Arnold Schwarzenegger made the transition with "Kindergarten Cop". Will Smith did it with "Men In Black". Now it's Vin Diesel's turn with "The Pacifier", a relatively stale and pedantic family film. It does have some entertaining moments, but essentially is a half-hour sitcom beaten into two hours. The film's success at the box office depends entirely on whether audiences will pay to see a kinder, gentler Vin Diesel. He doesn't really pull it off, but neither did Schwarzenegger and look what happened to him.

Diesel stars as bad-assed navy seal Shane Wolf. The film opens with Wolf attempting to rescue kidnapped scientist Howard Plummer (Tate Donovan). The mission goes awry and Plummer is killed. Plummer was working on a top secret weapon called GHOST (I have no idea what the acronym means). It was never recovered and the Department of Defense believes it might be hidden in Plummer's house. Wolf is assigned to protect the five Plummer children while their mother and his superior officer head to Europe; where they try to figure out the password to a recently uncovered safe deposit box in Howard Plummer's name. This is just a weak plot device to leave Wolf alone with the kids, but apparently this was the best the screenwriters could do. Wolf soon learns that commanding a unit of soldiers is a lot easier than babysitting five unruly kids.

The film is mediocre at best, but does have one major problem that I found disturbing. There are scenes where characters, mostly bad guys, are killed. It's not done in a violent way, but is glossed over in a nonchalant manner. It used to be that no one, even bad guys, died in family movies. This doesn't seem to be the case anymore. Last year's Pixar cartoon, The Incredibles, had scenes where characters were killed. I think this is a dangerous trend in Hollywood. Films like The Pacifier are family films meant to appeal to younger audiences. They shouldn't have such a cavalier attitude towards death. I'm not a bible-thumper decrying violence in the movies, but do believe that certain genres are meant for children and need to be reigned in for content.

The Pacifier is an incredibly generic movie and that's what I've come to expect from director Adam Shankman. Shankman's also responsible for such classics as "Maid in Manhattan" and "Bringing Down the House". He seems to specialize in these softball, plot starved comedies. He stays true to form with his latest effort. Vin Diesel could have probably done better in his first comedic foray, but could also have been much worse. He doesn't tank in this film and maybe that'll be good enough to make The Pacifier a hit.