Action hero Vin Diesel takes on paternal role in ‘The Pacifier’
In the grand tradition of the macho, action hero showing a softer, more fatherly side, we get the first such movie of the year with “The Pacifier.”
Past action heroes, such as Arnold Schwarzenegger (of “Terminator” fame), gave us the family-oriented “Kindergarten Cop,” while “Pulp Fiction” star John Travolta did the da-da thing with the “Look Who’s Talking?” series, and even “Beverly Hills Cop” star Eddie Murphy made the ever-so-kindly transition from action hero to more fatherly roles in “Daddy Day Care,” “Doctor Doolittle” and the soon-to-be released “Daddy Day Camp” sequel. Yep. Being the sensitive male figure means box office gold to the studio, and a great way to lure the ladies out there into the theater with their dates while we guys go, “Oh, no, not again, Lord!” But wait, guys. You might like this as a date flick.
Disney seems to find new angles to entertain the family, which is a good thing, since there are so few decent movies out there for the entire family to watch. Director Adam Shankman (2003’s “Bringing Down the House”) does a good job extracting the child within the tough guy persona that is Vin Diesel (“The Fast and the Furious,” “The Chronicles of Riddick,” “XXX”). Can’t have just the macho man – gotta have the macho profession, in this case being Vin as Shane Wolfe (even the name is macho-sounding), a member of the elite Navy SEALs who is trained for anything that requires special tactics, carrying out missions with little or no emotion whatsoever. What follows is literally your fish-out-of-water story.
First off, for the parents out there, let me say that Vin Diesel doesn’t kill anybody, but the PG rating, I feel, should have been taken up a slight notch to PG-13 because of the somewhat rude humor, and the language is a little edgy. That aside, I have seen some animated flicks that were far worse, trust me.
Second, although the story is predictable and the sentimental parts are well crafted, I think the idea of “family,” as far-fetched as it appears here, works. I say that because the kids in this movie are great little actors, and I didn’t mind having my heart-strings pulled, because I found myself rooting for this family partly because of the predicament they were forced into.
Diesel is assigned to protect the five children, whose father is a top-notch scientist working for the government. Not going to spoil the reasons why Shane is assigned to be with the family, but I will say that the children are completely out of control with their own sets of personal problems. Of course, depending on the various ages of the kids, their problems are the only things that seem to matter in the entire world.
What makes it more difficult for Shane is that, in addition to protecting the brood of mischief-makers, he also has to do battle with the bad guys. Yes, it is a comedy, trust me, but there are moments of intense drama at times that will balance the comedy and, dare I say, romance? Lauren Graham, who was so funny as Billy Bob Thornton’s love interest in “Bad Santa,” is just as marvelous here playing the school principle with an eye for Shane.
With “The Pacifier,” it is the kids who steal the show. Ranging from teenagers Zoe (Brittany Snow) and Seth (Max Theriot), to the younger 8-year-old Lulu (Morgan York), down to 3-year-old Peter and baby Tyler, there’s enough for everyone watching to identify with a character in this picture.
And, I have to admit, it was a pleasant surprise to see the always-funny and entertaining Carol Kane with her heavy accent as the Romanian nanny who is just left of center field. Other standout performances include Faith Ford, Brad Garrett and Max Thieriot in the minor but effective roles here that give the movie some spice. Let’s not forget the duck from hell that also has a starring role. What a vicious mallard! Kids and animals always make for a great combination and a sure-fire hit.
Vin Diesel may well have found a new career playing the fatherly role, as evidenced here, so watch out, Murphy! Disney may have some “nice guy” competition for you.
– Howie Nave is the host/emcee/manager of The Improv at Harveys every Tuesday through Sunday, and the comedian for The X Show every night except Monday. Howie appears on seven radio stations every Friday morning (including KOZZ 105.7) reviewing movies in California and Nevada.
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