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The Pacifier
(Widescreen)

review by Zach B.

 

 

MPAA Rating: PG

Running Time: 96 Minutes

Starring: Vin Diesel, Lauren Graham, Faith Ford, Brittany Snow, Max Thieriot, with Carol Kane and Brad Garrett

Written by: Thomas Lennon & Robert Ben Garant

Directed by: Adam Shankman

 

Studio: Disney

Retail Price: $29.99

Features: Audio Commentary with Director Adam Shankman, Co-Writer Thomas Lennon and Co-Writer Robert Ben Garant, Deleted Scenes, Blooper Reel, Brad Garret: Unpacified, On Set With Mr. Diesel: Action Hero/Nice Guy, Special OPs TV Commercials

Specs: 2.35:1 Anamorphic Widescreen, English Dolby Digital 5.1, French Dolby Digital 5.1, English Subtitles, French Subtitles, English Closed Captions, Scene Selection (16 Scenes)

Released: June 28th, 2005

 

 

During the first six minutes of "The Pacifier," Lt. Shane Wolfe (Vin Diesel) &emdash; a U.S. Navy S.E.A.L. &emdash; kinda botches a top-secret mission that results in the death of a beloved family man/scientist guy. After recovering from all that trauma, Wolfe is then assigned to look after the dead man's brood in suburban Maryland... and scour his house for his top-secret project, called "Ghost." Sure, Wolfe has lead all kinds of top-secret missions... but can he survive &emdash; and actually embrace &emdash; being a not-so-average nanny?

The biggest flaw in "The Pacifier" is that nothing really happens plotwise. A large majority of the movie has Diesel helping out the kids with their various conflicts. The kids are thinly-drawn caricatures: you have the baby, the wild toddler, the level-headed little girl, the bratty and boy-obsessed teen girl and the angsty teen guy. There's no depth to this family at all, and they all get tangled in situations you'd expect: girl scout problems! A party without permission! It's all just a lot of non-sense. How about some more realistic drama, given that these kids should still be mourning that their father has been dead for a few weeks?

Everything else is even more tacky. The military mystery plot &emdash; which is an excuse for Diesel to look after the kids &emdash; becomes an afterthought. The secret password? Big whoop. The use of a nursery rhyme the father taught one of his kids? Hmm, I wonder where that's going to go! And as if that's not enough, there are some "plot twists": characters aren't who they seem to be. But who cares, since there isn't much emotional investment or set-up with this kind of thing anyway. There's also the school principal (Lauren Graham) who shares a bond with Diesel's character (from the second the two meet, you know EVERYTHING that will happen) and a more "realistic" villain with the crazed and sadistic vice principal and wrestling coach (Brad Garrett). And oh yeah... Diesel has to retrieve the military program and look after the kids, but still has times to be a girl scout troop leader and direct a student musical? Didn't the kids NOTICE their father building a highly classified protection chamber underground? And did Faith Ford REALLY spend all that time away from her family trying to crack a password to military personnel? Simply put, a lot of the movie doesn't make any sense.

That would be all okay if the movie was at least somehow remotely funny, but in this reviewer's opinion, it was far from it. This is yet another movie that we've all seen before where the plotline has a tough guy reluctantly taking care of kids, learns how to do it properly and ends up loving the role of surrogate dad. Unfortunately, there's only so many jokes you can do involving diapers and bossy teenagers &emdash; so essentially, the ideals behind "The Pacifier" have become rather diluted. Adam Shankman, who has a pretty impressive box office track record, doesn't aim for the fresh here and goes with all the standard points one would expect. And weren't writers Thomas Lennon and Robert Ben Garant part of the comedy troupe The State? Aren't these guys SUPPOSED to be funny? Now that definitely doesn't make sense.

I will give credit to Vin Diesel: his appeal as an action hero at the box office already seems to be waning, and all the hype of him being the next Arnold Schwarzanegger really didn't come to fruition. So, for him to branch out into other kinds of roles &emdash; a la Schwarzanegger did in the early 1990s &emdash; isn't such a bad idea. Unfortunately, Diesel comes off as a stiff here. Sure, it's what the character calls for to an extent, but even when he should be lightning up, Diesel is really dry and far from expressive. Diesel basically has one look in this movie, and he can't seem to pull off the precious timing that any comedy needs.

The supporting cast isn't too impressive, either. Lauren Graham, who is so great on TV's "Gilmore Girls," is the one-dimensional love interest and isn't given much to do. The kids do a decent job, but they come across as a bit grating since their characters are so annoying. Carol Kane pops up and leaves as the family's foreign nanny, and Faith Ford is barely in the movie, but she's got the suburban mother role down pat. With all that said, leave it to the incredibly talented Brad Garrett, who actually delivers the movie's rare chuckles. Now that "Raymond" is done, please give this guy a leading role in a big movie &emdash; he can certainly carry it.

This movie is really terrible, and the whole idea of "tough guy tries to play housewife" may seem a little high concept... but isn't anything new. Still, audiences love anything that seems familiar to them, or they're at least desperate for some kind of family entertainment. Or maybe they were brainwashed by that trailer which has Vin Diesel getting his ass kicked by a duck, complete with a famous Cyndi Lauper tune playing in the background. This movie was really hammered by the critics too, so please... can any of you tell me how "The Pacifier" made over 100 million dollars at the box office? Inquiring minds really want to know... and have serious doubts about North America's viewing tastes.

 

Being released in separate widescreen and full screen, the former presents the movie in an anamorphic transfer with an aspect ratio of 2.35:1. This is a pretty solid transfer with strong black levels, great fleshtones and color saturation that really pops right out at you without any bleeding. Still, the contrast on the image quality is up a bit too much, as there is quite a lot of noise to be had. There's also a tad bit of edge enhancement, a few blemishes on the print and the image looks grainy overall. Nonetheless, it all ends up looking pretty nice.

 

The English Dolby Digital 5.1 track is also fine. Given that this is a family comedy, the sounds in the movie are pretty broad and nothing is terribly immersive. The slapstick comedy that Diesel goes through (and the wrestling) lends itself to some decent surrounds, but the most discrete and distinctive moments are the more action-oriented sequences that bookend the movie. Dialogue is easy to hear, and sounds rather clear for the most part. The music &emdash; such as John Debney's fitting score &emdash; comes out really well, and subwoofer use isn't too shabby. A French Dolby Digital 5.1 track is also included, plus subtitles in English and French and to top it off, English closed captioning.

 

Given the film's major success, you'd think there would be a lot more in the extra department, but what's here is really moderate. The major thing here is the Audio Commentary with Director Adam Shankman, Co-Writer Thomas Lennon and Co-Writer Robert Ben Garant. The track is a bit jokey which gets a bit annoying, but the track is obviously aimed for older viewers of the movie &emdash; much older. This is a decent commentary, but those for looking into a really insightful account on the filmmaking process won't find it here. Basically, you'll hear three guys talking with Shankman giving a load of production stories. Very straightforward.

There are five Deleted Scenes, presented in rough non-anamorphic widescreen and they total a whopping 3 minutes. The scenes don't add much to the movie, but there's something sorta amusing about Vin Diesel having a heart-to-heart talk with a duck and Brad Garret acting like a frog. The Blooper Reel, which lasts 2 and a half minutes and set to some awfully corny music, isn't really that funny.

There are two featurettes. Brad Garrett: Unpacified highlights the delightful comedic actor with plenty of on-the-set montage. Diesel talks about the actor's method a little, and Garrett himself speaks about his desire to work with Shankman, implies his love of improv and jokes about working out. This lasts about four minutes. On Set With Mr. Diesel: Action Hero/Nice Guy lasts 2 minutes and 40 seconds, and with the likes of producer Jonathan Glickman and Shankman talking, we get a sense of Vin Diesel "the sweetheart." There's a bit of on-the-set footage, but in essence, this brief glimpse doesn't give you a real sense of anything.

Of course, there are your usual previews for other Disney movies and DVDs, and while you don't get a trailer for "The Pacifier," those who check out the DVD are treated to Special OPs TV Commercials. Couldn't they have just called them TV spots? Having the commercials included seems a bit random, but whatever.

I seriously hope that a more elaborate special edition doesn't come out along the line, but given the fact that every movie now seems to get re-released on DVD eventually...

 

"The Pacifier" is definitely one of the worst movies I can remember sitting through, and I'm sure this will rank as the worst movie I've seen from 2005 when the year is said and done (or maybe not, Hollywood is bound to release plenty of more turkeys). But what do I know? This movie made well over 100 million dollars at the box office domestically (so some of you out there must have liked it), and I'm sure DVD sales will be through the roof, only adding more to the film's overall cash pile. So if you really loved this one... you'll probably find this DVD to be more than satisfactory.