The Pacifier (2005)Rated PG for action violence, language and rude humor.
Starring Vin Diesel, Lauren Graham, Faith Ford, Brittany Snow, Max Tieriot, Carol Kane, Brad Garrett.
LVJeff's Rating: 3/10
Photo ©Walt Disney Pictures. All rights reserved.
Just Passing Time
The Pacifier frequently references The Sound of Music, and perhaps that analogy is fitting, for both movies are essentially about an outsider walking in to a single-parent, large brood family and changing it for the better. A more appropriate comparison, though, would've been to its mid-'60's contemporary, Disney's own Mary Poppins, because while Maria von Trapp spends time loosening a disciplinary environment, Mary Poppins straightens things up -- and Vin Diesel's character follows suit. However, those Disney folks probably knew better than to reference their own classic in what's clearly a throwaway movie, and there may be more sly wisdom in associating The Pacifier with a musical other than one of their own.
I can't help wondering why Diesel felt the need to make this movie. Did he see it as a chance to avoid being pigeonholed as an action star? If so, wouldn't one have to be a well-established action star first? Stuff like The Chronicles of Riddick and XXX are not particularly memorable -- they weren't seminal the way, say, The Terminator and Rambo were. I like Diesel, and although I don't think he's found his Terminator yet, I believe it could be up and coming. It's simply too early for him to star in his own version of Kindergarten Cop.
Worse yet, The Pacifier wishes it could live up to even that cutesy Schwarzenegger movie. But this comedy is recycled material through and through, and what it offers in the affability of its star is countered with a mean streak of humiliation passed off as humor. Poor Carol Kane -- I didn't want to laugh at what she was reduced to early on in the movie. Meanwhile, even the star himself is not safe -- at one point, for a cheap and thoroughly disgusting laugh, Diesel is literally covered in crap. It gives a whole new meaning to his "I live for this ....!" line from XXX.
Nevertheless, Diesel does his best to be a good sport. I wouldn't exactly call this a winning quality of the movie, but it's the only thing giving the film any personality. Unfortunately, it also alludes to its forgettability. Diesel's filling a job with a smile here, but that's all he's doing. Without enough notoriety for Diesel to make his against-type turn actually memorable, and without a script that dares to move away from a safe template, The Pacifier ends up being simply a line in Diesel's resume -- padding to show his "range." Like Diesel's character, The Pacifier (looking more and more like a fitting name) is a babysitter, keeping the kids quiet for part of the afternoon and the star's filmography occupied before he heads on to the next project.
I want to comment on one last thing, which will be a bit tough without introducing spoilers, but I won't give anything away directly. America has long had a tradition of using international villains as easy fallback bad guys -- we had Russians in the '80s, Middle Easterners in the '90s, and for this decade there's a new corny demographic in town. That it's happening again isn't so deplorable; frankly, it's almost expected. Rather, it's lamentable because this is a kid's movie. I'm a firm believer that youngsters know better than we give them credit for, but at the same time we needn't point fingers for them, giving them ideas about which people to feel different from. The use of this kind of element has no place here, and The Pacifier could've easily been passable without it.
©Jeffrey Chen, Mar. 1, 2005