Pacifier, The (United States, 2005)

A movie review by James Berardinelli

Pacifiers are for infants. The same is true of The Pacifier. In fact, "infantile" may be the best single word to describe this Kindergarten Cop wannabe. Vin Diesel is better than the material, but, no matter how hard he tries, he can't rise above the puerile screenplay credited to Thomas Lennon & Robert Ben Garant. The Pacifier is offensive because it offers little more than unleavened stupidity in the place of the family-friendly action and comedy it promises.

The under/over age for viewers of The Pacifier is about 10. It has enough poop jokes to keep very young potential audience members engaged, but not enough content to attract tweens or teens. Adults will vacillate between thoughts of self-mutilation and wanting to do unspeakable things to director Adam Shankman (whose impeccable filmmaking resume includes such titles as The Wedding Planner and A Walk to Remember). Creatively sadistic children who can dupe their parents into using The Pacifier as a family outing will get a chance to avenge all those wrongful groundings.

Diesel plays Navy SEAL Shane Wolfe, who is given the top-secret assignment of babysitting five kids when their mother, Julie Plummer (Faith Ford), must go overseas to investigate the contents of her late husband's safety deposit box. It seems that Professor Plummer, before being murdered in the library with a lead pipe, had invented something called GHOST - one of those generic, super secret devices that promises world peace in the right hands and Armageddon in the wrong ones. Since nefarious persons could be out to foul things up by harming Julie's kids, Shane is brought in to be their protector. He sees this as an opportunity to apply a little discipline, but, of course, it all backfires. Didn't this happen to Hulk Hogan in Mr. Nanny?

The Plummer kids range in age from infancy to nearly-ready-for-college. The oldest, Zoe (Brittany Snow), is horrified at being told what to do by such an uncool, uncouth fascist. Seth (Max Thieriot) is too busy brooding and being bullied in school to take much notice. Lulu (Morgan York) kind-of likes Shane. And the two youngest, Peter and the baby, don't much care. There's also a nanny named Helga, who exits as soon as Carol Kane has had enough screen time to justify her paycheck.

The film's ultimate destination is not finding GHOST, but building a relationship of trust and caring between Shane and the kids. A love interest is tossed into the mix in the person of the Plummers' principal, Claire (Lauren Graham). Why? Because no live-action Disney movie is complete without a nice, PG-rated romance. (It may be of interest to some that one of Graham's most memorable roles was as the sex-obsessed woman with a Santa fetish in Bad Santa.) We are subjected to at least three staples of this sort of movie: Shane attempting to deal with a dirty diaper, the Navy SEAL getting stuck behind the wheel of a mini-van, and the kindhearted, burly brute arriving home to discover that Zoe has decided to throw a party without his permission.

In the end, Shane wins over each of the children in a different way. With Zoe, it's teaching her how to drive. With Seth, it's directing his amateur production of "The Sound of Music." With Lulu, it's teaching her brownie troupe how to get tough with the cub scouts. With Peter, it's giving a stirring rendition of the "Peter Panda Song." And with the baby, it's keeping those diapers clean. Now that's drama.

When Arnold Schwarzenegger made Kindergarten Cop, he was already a proven box office draw with a successful comedy (Twins) under his belt. He was also working with a proven director (Ivan Reitman) and an enjoyable script. None of these things are true of The Pacifier, and it shows. This is a sloppy movie whose lackluster action sequences serve only to offer a momentary respite from the flaccid comedy/drama that comprises the majority of the running length. Those hoping for a few feeble laughs are likely to be disappointed. The sole redeeming quality of the movie is Vin Diesel, but it doesn't take long before his charisma is snuffed out. This Pacifier deserves to be chewed up and spat out.

Pacifier, The (United States, 2005)

Run Time: 1:35
U.S. Release Date: 2005-03-04
MPAA Rating: "PG" (Violence)
Subtitles: none
Theatrical Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1