Family Film Review: The Pacifier
by Donna Schwartz Mills
(c) 2005 by Donna Schwartz Mills
Studio: Walt Disney
MPAA Rating: PG for action violence, language and rude humor.
Mom Rating: 3 out of 5
Kid Rating: 4 out of 5
Cast: Vin Diesel, Lauren Graham, Faith Ford, Brittany Snow, Max Thieriot, Brad Garrett, Carol Kane
Writers: Robert Garant, Thomas Lennon
Director: Adam Shankman
Let me start by stating the obvious: this movie is not going to win any awards. The premise of a Navy Seal sent to protect a family consisting of five out-of-control kids is as predictable as a poopy diaper gag, and it's such an obvious ploy for Vin Diesel to expand his action-hero fan base into the family audience (a la Arnie in "Kindergarten Cop") that I had no desire to see it.
But the previews tickled my 9-year-old daughter so much that it was placed at the top her her "must-see" list, and you know what? I kind of liked it.
The professional critics will tell you it's cliched (it is), unbelievable (true) and fluff. The suspension of disbelief you have to attain to get into it is huge (a babysitter who shops at Costco while the troop of girls in his care are selling their cookies in the parking lot? Without any supervision? A weapon sought by terrorists is hidden in a home and the government doesn't move the entire family to a safe house?)
However, in my book, fluff is OK for a family film -- as long as it doesn't try to be anything else and it holds your interest. And this does, thanks to the unique charm of Vin Diesel and a cast of TV veterans who know how to do a lot with a little.
Not all parents will find this movie appropriate for their children. Its PG rating was earned honestly. The film starts with an action sequence that ends with the death of the family's father, a security expert who created a program that can render a country's nuclear arsenal useless. There are more violent scenes sprinkled throughout the film, ranging from a fight sequence between Diesel and a couple of ninjas to a disturbing (but funny) bit where the youngest daughter's scout troop beats up and hogties a troop of boys. I laughed at that -- but felt guilty while I was doing it. (The violence is the cartoon sort -- while some participants die, there is no memorable blood or other consequences.)
This movie also contains some bathroom humor, centered around poop. Lots and lots of poop. If you don't find this kind of thing funny, you are a more mature person than your children. This is the kind of thing they will remember and talk about with their friends.
Diesel plays Navy Seal Shane Wolf, who had been assigned to rescue the security expert from terrorists who tried to steal his program. The fact that the man died on his watch weighs heavily on him, and when he is then assigned to protect the man's family, he knows he must make good. You see, everyone thinks the late inventor hid his program somewhere in his house -- the same house he shared with his wife and five children.
Shane Wolf is sent to protect them against the various agents and ninjas who are watching the house and trying to steal the program, and to find it himself.
Oh yes -- the mother has to fly to Switzerland because the key to the program may be in a safe deposit box there, and she is delayed for over two weeks because she does not know the password her husband had left to allow her entry to its contents.
And the nanny quits, which leaves Shane in charge of the entire brood, who are told they will do it "my way, not highway." (The kids have no idea what that means, and neither do I).
Did I mention that Shane hates kids? And doesn't know how to change a diaper?
The kids are all troubled. The teenage boy and girl have been cutting classes, and the boy is bullied by the entire wrestling team, led by its coach (who is also their K-12 school's vice principal, played with comic relish by "Everyone Loves Raymond's" Brad Garrett). He's really harmless, and besides, "He has tenure," sighs school principal Lauren Graham, who coincidentally is a retired CPO, having served four years at a naval base before college. (When I took screenwriting in college, I was told that the audience would forgive you just ONE coincidence. Apparently, the guys who wrote this script missed that lesson.)
The middle child, an 8-year-old girl, has scout meetings three times a week (HUH? That's just nuts!) and has to deal with a troop of boys who declare a turf war over the Costco parking lot where both are trying to raise funds. The toddler can't sleep until someone sings and dances for him at night, and the baby -- well, the baby doesn't have any problems and only seems to be there so that Shane can do funny stuff with diapers and baby powder.
Fortunately, the child actors, led by Brittany Snow as the oldest daughter, are sweet and appealing, even when they are in their "acting out" hostile phase. In addition to Garrett and Graham, the cast includes Faith Ford as the mom and Carol Kane as the nanny, who seems to be channeling an older -- and bitter -- version of Simka, the character she played on "Taxi." These guys can all steal a scene with their eyes closed, and they ably support the action for Diesel and the kids.
By the end of the movie, Shane solves the kids' problems, saves the world and discovers he likes kids after all... all in the course of two weeks.
Not too believable -- but a fun 90 minutes at the movies all the same.
Donna Schwartz Mills took film classes in college and spent 13 years working in the entertainment industry before "retiring" to marry a "non-pro" (Variety's term for anyone in any other business) and become a mom. Today, she's lucky if she can attend two "grown up" films per year -- but she feeds her movie habit by dragging her little girl to every family film she can, often on opening day. She says she can't wait for her daughter to turn 17.
Donna is owner of http://www.Family-Content.com, the home of free and low-cost content solutions for family friendly websites and
This article provided by the Family Content Archives at: http://www.Family-Content.com