I know what you're saying: ''Vin Diesel doing a cutesy family comedy? Has he totally lost his mind?'' But before you judge him, you should know that the action hero actually fits surprisingly well in the family-friendly, yet predictably sentimental The Pacifier. Honest.
After failing in a mission to protect an important government scientist, Navy SEAL Shane Wolfe (Diesel) learns that the man's family is also in danger. In an effort to redeem himself, Wolfe agrees to take care of the scientist's children while their mother (Faith Ford) travels overseas to try to retrieve her late husband's secret plans. But the perilous, adrenaline-charged world of babysitting soon becomes the military man's greatest challenge, especially with the out-of-control Plummer clan. They include sassy rebel teen Zoe (Brittany Snow), sullen 14-year-old Seth (Max Thieriot), precocious 8-year-old Ninja wannabe Lulu (Morgan York), plus destructive toddler Peter and baby poop machine Tyler. He's truly a fish, er, SEAL out of water, but this tough guy soon realizes that by bringing them all closer together to protect them, he's becoming part of a family. Yep, pure Disney sap.
That's right, I said it. Vin Diesel doesn't look completely ridiculous interacting within the whole heartwarming comedy milieu, and there's a couple of reasons why. Firstly, as The Pacifier's tough nut Navy SEAL, Diesel is still doing all the he-man stuff we know and love him for. He still blows things up, gets to race on a Jet Ski, and fight off Ninja assassins. Secondly, although he has a few moments during which he softens up, Diesel's Shane never really drops the hard-ass sergeant routine as he tries to whip the kids into shape. One of the more telling scenes is after Shane expertly dispatches said Ninjas, using the kid's stuff as weapons. It finally dawns on the Plummer children that they really are in danger, and that maybe they should cut the guy some slack. As for the three older kids, Snow (TV's American Dreams), Thieriot (Catch That Kid) and York (Cheaper By
the Dozen) do their best not to veer too much into the stereotypical zone, especially York as little Lulu, who could have a promising future as a Special Ops agent if she plays her cards right. Carol Kane also makes a memorable appearance as the Plummers' beleaguered Eastern European nanny, giant warts on her face and all. As does
Everybody Loves Raymond's Brad Garrett as a bullish high school vice principal.
The Pacifier is sort of an Uncle Buck on steroids. The 1989 John Hughes' film had John Candy, with his sloppy, unorthodox ways, come into white-bred suburbia and change not only the lives of his nieces and nephew but, of course, his own. It's a formula that works and Pacifier director Adam Shankman (Bringing Down the House) utilizes it to the fullest. The best moments of the film are when the Navy SEAL has to use his own experiences and skills and apply them to the domestic mess he finds himself in. Sure, there are the usual gags about changing the baby's diaper for the first time, catching Zoe's boyfriend trying to sneak into the house, stuff like that. And yes, the mush level hits some serious high points at times. But for the most part, the getting-to-know-each-other set up is enjoyable. The film starts to lose you, however, when it gets into the subplot of trying to find the dead scientist's super secret plans, which, in the wrong hands, could spell disaster for the world. Whatever. Just get back to the comedy.
Following in the footsteps of the Arnolds and the Sylvesters before him, Vin Diesel pulls off a nice comic performance in the otherwise gushy The Pacifier.