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The Pacifier

  The Pacifier
In his spare time Vin Diesel enjoys an occasional bris.

© 2005, Walt Disney Pictures
All Rights Reserved

After failing to protect a top government agent from terrorists, Navy Seal Shane Wolfe (Vin Diesel) is assigned to defend the agent's family, the Plummers (including Faith Ford, Brittany Snow, and Max Theroit). When the mother is sent away on business, Shane is left alone to guard the homestead while confronting rebellious teenagers, dealing with the family duck (don't ask), helping the kids at school (staffed by Brad Garrett, "Everybody Loves Raymond," and the always welcome Lauren Graham, "Gilmore Girls"), and fending off the occasional ninja that decides to break into the house. As Shane spends more time with the family, he begins to assume a father role, which is tested when the terrorists try to strike again, looking for a top-secret object Shane himself cannot seem to find.

The producers would curdle at the mention, but come on; "The Pacifier" (IMDb listing) is nothing more than a rip-off of Arnold Schwarzenegger's 1990 semi-classic "Kindergarten Cop." The opportunity to broaden his audience and change his genre worked for Arnold, why not for Vin Diesel? Now the equally-as-thick action star finally gets his chance to play against type. But instead of working with a distinguished and beloved comedic director like Ivan Reitman, Diesel is stuck with Adam Shankman, the filmmaker behind such colossal artistic misfires as "The Wedding Planner," "A Walk to Remember," and the mysteriously successful "Bringing Down the House."

Already wary of Diesel's razor-thin charms, "Pacifier" at least takes the star away from the action and sci-fi cinema that was getting him nowhere. Cursed with his NyQuil drawl and chiseled body, there aren't many unique characters for Diesel to play, so the "Pacifier" team traces over the "Kindergarten Cop" script and simply sends Diesel into the kiddie world as the straight man to poopy diapers and bullying vice principals. On paper, this might've come across as gold, yet the final product is anything but. Diesel isn't much of an actor to start with, and he comes to the film armed with a vague my-agent-thought-this-would-be-good-for-me look to his face, seemingly, and deservedly, unconvinced of the material. Diesel gives the film his all (which isn't much), relying on the idea that the simple visual gag of his brawny body cradling an infant is a guaranteed laugh. I hate to break it to Vin, but that's just not going enough.

The script by Thomas Lennon and Ben Garant ("Taxi") is even lazier than Diesel's performance, passively arranging a story that is both absurd (even by absurd standards) and hackneyed, making a pit stop at every conceivable screenwriting cliché in the book. Seriously, "The Pacifier" doesn't even try to attempt a new idea, and the final insult is a "conspiracy" plot twist late in the game that wouldn't even fly on a cable access crime show, much less a big screen feature from Disney. There is truly shameful material in here, including one bizarre subplot that, for a brief moment, has one of the Plummer kids suspected of joining a Neo-Nazi group. Who OK-ed this script?

With only an abysmal screenplay to work with, director Shankman doesn't have a prayer to rise above it. An extremely limited visionary, Shankman is the type of filmmaker who will go to the aforementioned poopy diaper gag not once, but three times to get a laugh. He gets a lot of comic mileage out of placing Diesel in traditionally emasculating roles, such as a Girl Scout leader and musical choreographer, but not a moment of it is even worth a chuckle. There's no sense of authority in Shankman's direction, and no comic timing to speak of. Shankman's worst offense is to allow co-star Brad Garrett to improv nonstop, lost in the belief that Garrett's overwhelmingly unfunny and random thoughts can save any scene he's in. Good heavens, Shankman could not be more wrong.

Maybe it's a good thing that "Pacifier" is nearly a complete wreck, because it does provide a strong reminder just how much care and effort went into "Kindergarten Cop," and what a treat that film ended up being. Vin Diesel is no Arnold Schwarzenegger, but with this C-list filmmaking team, he never stood chance to be funny to begin with.

Filmfodder Grade: D-

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