The Pacifier, Vin Diesel
There are many reasons that I could make up to justify my rental and review of a Disney propagated Vin Diesel movie. It's been over thirty degrees Celsius for the last two weeks, and I was very dehydrated at Blockbuster. I've seen all the new releases. The clerk, who was Vin Diesel, made me do it. I got it for a younger cousin who never ended up coming over. I had a coupon. The DVD got mixed up in the case, and I was really trying to rent The Motorcycle Diaries. But they'd all be lies. I have a confession to make: I sometimes rent bad movies on purpose. See, I'm lactose-intolerant, so I gotta get the cheese from somewhere.
As I settle down for some good family entertainment, I'm chagrined to find that it's nearly impossible to fast-forward through the trailers, which I've seen about a hundred times in theatres. What's even worse is that, following the logical thinking that no one over the age of twelve is renting this film, the trailers are for the animated Chicken Little, a teaser for The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe, which I'm ashamed to say I've never read, and two films that are so old that I think I saw them in my past life: The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, and Ice Princess. And then I think that it would be very cool if Vin Diesel had been cast in the latter. He could be a Navy SEAL going undercover at a skating competition, and he'd have hilarious times learning how to ice skate while getting used to the chafing costumes.
The film opens in true Vin Diesel fashion. There's a covert mission going on that Diesel, as Lieutenant Shane "My Guns Are Bigger Than Yours" Wolf, is heading. After going through some complicated game plan to show us that he's a professional, Lt. Wolf dispatches his team with a dramatic, "We're SEALs, this is what we do!" This marks the first time I laughed in the film.
And then the explosions start. There are many of them, and the cost to create them could feed a small country. See Vin on ski jets. See Vin punch out the bad guys. See Vin wish he had signed on for another xXx film instead. Vin shoots a puny missile into a plane and it spontaneously splits in half, just like it might on an episode of "The Simpsons." Vin then shoots another bomb onto the targeted ship and everyone on deck jumps ship. Surprisingly, he does this knowing that their bounty (in the form of a professor, played by Tate Donovan) is locked away on the lower floor of the ship. But then again, he's a professional and probably knew that the boat would stay intact, because it does. Once the professor is rescued, Vin tries to safely escort him to a getaway helicopter. Suddenly, Vin's muscular sixth sense goes off, but it's too late. The pilot is dead and the professor is left unguarded. Thankfully, kids are spared further violence by having the professor killed off-screen.
It's three months later, and Vin is still beating himself up over the failed mission. But it's okay since he's still a good SEAL and is doing his deceased special ops soldier dad proud. Vin has assigned another mission: it seems that the professor he was badly rescuing was actually working on a top-secret program that could destroy the world if it ever fell into the wrong hands (read: non-American hands, like history hasn't shown us that Americans aren't a little vicious themselves). And this is why DVDs rock: the closed captioning function. This handy tool enables me to catch what Vin is mumbling half the time, since whenever he speaks I regress to The Iron Giant, one of the best animated movies I've ever seen (take that plug and shove it, Disney). So the program is called G.H.O.S.T., which stands for Guided High-Altitude Scrambling Transmitter (yes, I realize this acronym does not, in fact, spell "ghost," but I'm too lazy to find out what happened to the "o"). This program scrambles launch codes so that when activated, a "country [could not] launch its own nukes." You know, after typing all this, I still don't care all that much. I kind of feel like I did back in 2000, when I was watching Mission: Impossible 2.
But that's okay, because the film isn't about science and technology and cold wars. What this film is about is Vin Diesel shedding his action persona and showcasing his comedic acting chops. Some people call it "range," but when it comes to Vin, it's better left unsaid. I mean, he's still playing a testosterone-friendly, macho Navy SEAL badass type, so the stretch isn't even all that noticeable.
The professor's widow has just been informed that her deceased husband has left something in a safe deposit box in Switzerland, and since she's the next of kin and there's a password involved, she must go retrieve it. Cross your fingers, because this might be the elusive G.H.O.S.T. we've all heard of. Although his boss (Chris Potter) claims that he doesn't blame Vin for the death of the professor, I think he does. Why else would he make Vin go to the widow's house to baby-sit her five children if this isn't some sort of punishment? And also, while Vin's there, would he mind looking around for the program, since there might be a copy stashed somewhere in the house? Thanks.
This kicks off the physical comedy bit that Vin can now cross off his résumé, as he navigates through a frickin' front lawn and looks as lost as I did when I took that Economics class. Maybe it's meant to be a social commentary on the disturbing monotony of suburbia and the uncertainty of the American Dream, but I doubt it. When he knocks a little girl opens the door, screams, and slams it shut. This scene made no sense whatsoever. Either she's a very rude little girl who was raised by baboons, or Vin's shiny head scared the bejesus out of her. Mom (Faith Ford, one of the few actresses who's managed to look great in everything she's in) lets Vin out and apologizes for not teaching her daughter more manners.
We're introduced to the kids: eldest sister Zoe (Brittany Snow), who's very pretty but has a huge chip on her shoulder and no one to take it out on; Eminem worshipper Seth (Max Theriot); no-manners Lulu (Morgan York); tiny Peter (Kegan and Logan Hoover), who thankfully doesn't have many lines; and baby Tyler (Bo and Luke Vink). Of course, these were my first impressions of the kids, which aren't very far off from what the rest of the film does present us with. I might add that the three year olds playing Peter are quite cute. They'll be heartbreakers one day. There's also a nanny named Olga (Carol Kane) who is what you'd imagine an Olga would be like. The Plummers have Korean neighbours too, and if it weren't for them, the film would be under the "drama" section at Blockbuster. We're also introduced to Gary the duck, who "thinks he's a guard dog." Pay attention, Gary will figure heavily into this complicated plot.
Mom leaves Vin in charge and sets off for a vacation away from her brats. Which makes me wonder how she had five children and still kept her great figure, but the answer is probably "yoga" or "pilates," which goes right over my head. This is when Vin really turns on the child abuse. I suppose this is because he's a SEAL, not a baby-sitter, and has never seen real kids in his life. At one point, Vin feeds the kids vacuum-packed provisions. Like Vin has never eaten outside of the army? In another scene, he cleans the baby's bottom in the toilet. It's funny for the audience, but not funny for the kid who's going to have a wicked rash for two weeks.
And then the grown kids get fed up with Vin, although it's only been two days (one spent at school) and their mother is due back at any moment (spoiler: her trip is conveniently delayed later on). I didn't think Vin was that bad, but then again, I laughed when the mannerless daughter said Vin had boobs (see it: 24:15), so maybe I'm easy. This hatred for Vin quickly dissipates when the kids realize that people are really trying to kill them (see it: 43:45), and he's the only one that can prolong their bratty lives. This is also when everyone starts opening up to the Vin-enator and he, in turn, learns that kids aren't that bad when they're not being abused.
There's also a "comic" relief found in Brad Garrett, who is much taller than Vin (spoiler: he's not that funny), and a love interest in Lauren Graham, who was part of the reason why I rented this film. The fact that she can keep a straight face while "flirting" with Vin earns her extra points right off the bat. As the film progresses (and it does get funnier, really), Vin's character starts getting better. Maybe I'm a sucker for sight gags or obvious plot twists or happy endings, but The Pacifier isn't as bad as the trailers might imply. In the very least, the part where they make a little boy scout call cookies "skanky" will change your whole perception of the film (I guess I picked up the unrated version).
This DVD would have earned a higher rating were it not for the extras. The extras are so useless that I'd rather do my boss' taxes than watch them again. There are five deleted scenes, which are about ten seconds each; one can definitely agree as to why they weren't included in the theatrical release. The blooper reel leaves much to be desired. The musical montage is almost completely comprised of Gary the duck messing up his mark or eating props. I must say, in some respects Gary really out-acts Vin. There's a Backstage: Disney, which is basically two featurettes, one on Brad Garrett ("Brad Garrett: Unpacified"), and the other on Vin Diesel ("On Set With Mr. Diesel: Action Hero/Nice Guy"). They were fantastically boring. What about Lauren Graham? I would rather watch her get her make-up done. In the Diesel featurette, we get to see various crewmembers and co-stars expound the virtues of the Vin. Vin likes babies! We can prove it by showing you playing with the baby! No, he had no idea the cameras were there! Peculiarly, no adult co-stars were available for comment. If these extras aren't enough to satisfy your Pacifier thirst, there's also the Special Ops TV Commercials. Did you know that there were five different theatrical trailers for this film? If you don't believe me, it's all here for us to enjoy. Again. Even though we've just seen the damn movie.
The Pacifier was a decent guilty pleasure, but in retrospect, I still feel kind of cheap about the whole ordeal. ¤ C.Ho.
THE PACIFIER: (out of 5)