The Barenaked Archives – The Pacifier

From 2003 up until 2007, I was lucky enough to have “movie reviewer” as my job description. As such, I’ve built up a *lot* of reviews for just about every movie that came out during those years, as well as reviews of classic movies.

The Barenaked Archives are reviews that I did for two previous websites. Sadly, they are both gone, so this is now the only place online you can see these old columns.

The Pacifier posterMr. Nanny. Kindergarten Cop. Both are movies from our childhood wherein a buff, action-oriented star (Hulk Hogan in the former, Arnold Schwarzenegger in the latter) meets his match in rowdy children under the age of ten. This is funny, because, you know, they outsmart bad guys but get their butts handed to them by a bunch of kids.

Obviously not classic filmmaking in the least, but entertaining to the prepubescent set. Now, another film has come to join the ranks: The Pacifier, featuring current action star Vin Diesel. And like its predecessors, The Pacifier is probably a lot more entertaining if you’re a kid.

Vin Diesel plays Lieutenant Shane Wolf, a Navy S.E.A.L. who’s just come back into action after being shot during a rescue mission. His new mission is to protect the five children of a dead scientist while their mother goes away to check out a safe that may hold the scientist’s top secret project. When it turns out she’ll have to be gone longer than they thought, Shane has to find a way to live with the five bratty kids, and search for the project, which may still be in the house.

This movie winds up being sort of like director Adam Shankman’s last film, Bringing Down the House: there are some really good laughs, but for the most part the movie is relatively predictable and tepid.

Quite a bit of the film even tries one’s suspension of disbelief, especially the chase scene at the end with a 16-year-old handling a minivan at speeds one would only trust to a seasoned NASCAR driver. Also, a montage features a number of scenes that, according to earlier dialogue, take place within a week (or less), but it’s really hard to believe that the kids learned the things they did in that amount of time.

There are also a few times when the dialogue crosses into the painful territory, usually when they’re going for emotion rather than comedy. When Peter calls Shane “Daddy,” it elicits an “aw” from the audience. Shane’s emotional speech at the end, though, is close to nausea-inducing.

Sadly, Brad Garrett (Everybody Loves Raymond) is actually overused as the vice principal Mr. Murney. Even though there are points where his character is funny, it becomes so overdone that soon he’s an unbelievable caricature that won’t shut up. It’s hard to believe that this guy would be allowed to work in a high school for that long. Also, the romantic subplot between Shane and the kids’ principal Claire (Lauren Graham from Gilmore Girls) is completely sans chemistry and seems thrown in just because they felt Vin Diesel should have a love interest. It doesn’t work at all.

However, not all is bad. Unlike most movies like this where the kids are holy terrors, the kids here aren’t too bad. Their reactions to Shane feel a little bit more realistic than is typical for these films, and they don’t pull too many Home Alone-esque stunts. Also, Vin himself doesn’t do too badly (then again, this role doesn’t really feel like a stretch), and it certainly doesn’t hurt that he spends one scene in a towel.

The Pacifier is simply an average movie, one that would be a lot more entertaining for kids than for adults. If you’re being forced to take a younger sibling to the theater this weekend, this won’t necessarily make you want to kill yourself, but other than that, you can wait for 50-cent Tuesdays.

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