Diesel stars as top Marine Shane Wolfe, who's assigned to guard the family of a slain professor who was working on a secret government work project. Wolfe's job is to protect the man's five kids, while his widow (Faith Ford) travels overseas to settle affairs. What starts as a two-day trip soon becomes two weeks. And it has to seem longer to Wolfe when the family's nanny (Carol Kane) bolts, leaving him to also play surrogate dad to the unruly group of kids.
Of course, Wolfe is in way over his head. His military demeanor ("It's my way. There is no highway option.") doesn't go over well at first. Dirty diapers are as big a challenge to him as any rescue mission. Soon the kids and the gruff Wolfe reach an understanding. "You listen to me," he says. "And I'll listen to you." What that translates to is the kids finding success -- from selling Girl Scout cookies to staging The Sound of Music -- by employing his Marine methods.
The Pacifier sounds like the worst parts of Mrs. Doubtfire and Kindergarten Cop, yet director Adam Shankman (Bringing Down the House) and writers Thomas Lennon and Robert Ben Garant (the guys behind the flop Taxi) put together an amiable and sometimes amusing movie. They highlight goofiness over the family crisis angle, a wise move since Diesel is not exactly a master thespian. Plus, death and family comedy usually don't mix, as evidenced by last year's Raising Helen.
Diesel succeeds here, showing emotion and gradually warming up to the kids and embracing them as his own. You buy the transformation. Besides, his wooden nature makes every escapade he's in oddly fascinating, an "It's not a tumor!" -- Schwarzenegger's legendary line from Kindergarten Cop -- moment waiting to happen. Diesel also doesn't have to go at it alone. He gets able support from Brad Garrett as the malicious, goofy vice principal at the kids' school, and the primary kid actors (Brittany Snow, Max Thierot, and Morgan York) are all likable. Lauren Graham, playing the world's sexiest principal and Diesel's obligatory love interest, lends her usual soothing screen presence.
The Pacifier needs more time from the above characters and less time from Kane's Czech nanny, a tired role she's been playing since 1979. The other two kids under Wolfe's watch -- a toddler and an infant -- only provide an array of vomit and poop opportunities, which have all been done before, including in the current box office hit Are We There Yet? And what's with the family having an attack duck? I can't be too picky, The Pacifier could have been a thousand times worse. For that reason alone, it's one of the biggest surprises in this early movie year -- and a possible career rejuvenator for Diesel.
The DVD adds a gag reel, deleted scenes, and a commentary track.
This time it is a tumor.
Run time: 95 mins
In Theaters: Friday 4th March 2005
Box Office USA: $113.0M
Box Office Worldwide: $113M
Distributed by: Buena Vista
Production compaines: Walt Disney Pictures, Spyglass Entertainment
Contactmusic.com: 3 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 20%
Fresh: 26 Rotten: 103
IMDB: 5.5 / 10
Director: Adam Shankman
Starring: Vin Diesel as Shane Wolf, Lauren Graham as Principal Claire Fletcher, Faith Ford as Julie Plummer, Brittany Snow as Zoe Plummer, Max Thieriot as Seth Plummer, Carol Kane as Helga, Tate Donovan as Howard Plummer
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