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.

The Barenaked Archives: The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl in 3-D

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.

sharkboy-lavagirlYou know it’s not going to be a good day when the projector breaks down 40 minutes into the movie. You know it’s going to be even worse when the resuming picture is out of frame.

And when the projector breaks three more times over the course of the rest the film, you begin to wonder if any movie is worth this much hassle. If there were a movie in existence worth four projector breakdowns, The Adventures of Shark Boy and Lava Girl in 3-D is definitely not it.

Based on an idea by director Robert Rodriguez’s son, Racer, The Adventures of Shark Boy and Lava Girl is about Max (Cayden Boyd), a boy who has dreamed up the superheroes Shark Boy and Lava Girl.

Max’s creations become surprisingly real when Shark Boy (Taylor Lautner)* and Lava Girl (Taylor Dooley) show up to take him to their home planet, Planet Drool (which features places such as the Train of Thought, the Stream of Consciousness, and the Land of Milk and Cookies), to stop the wicked Mr. Electricity (George Lopez) from taking over.

Robert Rodriguez is a director with two settings. On the one hand, he gives us movies like Sin City and Desperado, ultra-violent and visually impressive affairs that embrace their R rating. On the other hand, he gives us movies like Spy Kids, which turned out to be a surprisingly entertaining movie that parents could take their children to without worrying about it scarring them for life. The Adventures of Shark Boy and Lava Girl is clearly in category #2, and sadly, it is not nearly as fun as Spy Kids.

The whole theme of the film is about dreams, and how it’s important not to forget them or let them go just because other people tell you it’s impossible. A noble idea, to be sure, but the execution of said idea borders on excruciating at points. It’s reiterated so many times it’s tantamount to having your skull opened and the theme smashed in with a sledgehammer, and then, just to make sure you have it, it’s tattooed on your brain. Granted, you can’t be too subtle in kids’ movies, but you don’t have to beat us over the head with the message, either.

If that weren’t enough, the whole “3-D” trick is single-handedly the most annoying thing I’ve ever had to deal with while watching a movie, and that counts all the times my stepsister sat right beside me and asked “What’s happening?” when, if she’d waiting two minutes, the film would’ve told her.

The phrases “glasses on” and “glasses off” flash on the screen during the movie, letting you know when to put on your cardboard 3-D glasses. This gimmick might have been cooler if more things had flown out from the screen, but outside of a few rocks and some lava, nothing did, rendering the 3-D relatively useless. Everything had a blue-red tint that got very irritating very quickly. Younger kids might find it cool, but most people over the age of nine are going to want something more.

As much as I like Robert Rodriguez as a director, The Adventures of Shark Boy and Lava Girl in 3-D isn’t exactly a crowning achievement. The 3-D gimmick and clumsy execution will try even the most patient of viewers. Unless you’ve got young children who are just dying to see this, go do something else. Anything else. You’ll save your sanity.

*2011 note: Holy cow, I can’t believe Taylor Lautner was Shark Boy. Now he’s a famous werewolf.