The Pacifier

on March 04, 2005 by Wade Major
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Ever since Arnold Schwarzenegger made it safe for action stars to poke fun at themselves, it's become a rite of passage for Hollywood's muscle-heads (or just plain Hollywood muscle) to go the family film route, which usually means tangling with a gaggle of rambunctious kids in some kind of moralistic fable that has everyone learning valuable lessons from everyone. Having already gone the distance with generic action fare, it makes good sense for Vin Diesel to show a lighter side in something like "The Pacifier," an amiable, mostly formulaic effort that should adequately fill the pre-summer family film void.

Diesel plays Shane Wolfe, a tough-as-nails Navy SEAL who lands the assignment to protect the four children of an assassinated scientist while the scientist's widow (Faith Ford) heads to Switzerland to retrieve the codes that will hopefully unlock her husband's work. Meanwhile, Wolfe must be both bodyguard and nanny, struggling to control the undisciplined urchins while fending off the threat of international terrorists and ninjas. Diesel plays it mostly straight, taking his cues from Schwarzenegger's "Kindergarten Cop" approach, even though the story is more similar to the Hulk Hogan yawner "Mr. Nanny." Though there's nothing here that audiences haven't seen a thousand times before, Diesel and costars Lauren Graham (as the fetching school principal) and Brad Garrett (as a cocky wrestling coach and vice principal) keep even the stiffer moments loose and lively. The three eldest children -- Brittany Snow, Max Thieriot and Morgan York -- are also quite good, lending welcome believability to their generic pubescent and teenage struggles.

Director Adam Shankman ("Bringing Down the House") is as workmanlike here as he has been in his previous work, which is to say that he plays it mostly safe, avoiding the kinds of risks that might cause the film to either flounder or fly. As a result, neither Diesel nor the kids ever really get the best of each other -- but each gets in enough good licks to fill a mostly lull-free 90 minutes. And for a March release, that's as much as audiences really have any right to expect. Starring Vin Diesel, Lauren Graham, Faith Ford, Carol Kane, Brad Garrett, Brittany Snow, Max Thieriot and Morgan York. Directed by Adam Shankman. Written by Thomas Lennon & Robert Ben Garant. Produced by Roger Birnbaum, Gary Barber and Jonathan Glickman. A Buena Vista release. Family/Comedy. Rated PG for action violence, language and rude humor. Running time: 91 min

Tags: Vin Diesel, Lauren Graham, Faith Ford, Carol Kane, Brad Garrett, Brittany Snow, Max Thieriot, Morgan York, Adam Shankman, Thomas Lennon, Robert Ben Garant, Roger Birnbaum, Gary Barber, Jonathan Glickman, Buena Vista, Family, Comedy, Shane Wolfe, Navy SEAL
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