At first, The Pacifier looks like mindless entertainment. And, well, that's mostly what it is throughout.

Directed by Adam Shankman (Bringing Down the House and A Walk to Remember) and written by Thomas Lennon and Ben Garant, the film begins in all the wrong ways: silly dialogue ("I know we've been up for 72 hours, but I expect perfection!"), clichés and predictability (it's a film with babies, so the diaper humor just keeps on comin'), and complete abandonment of the "Show us, don't tell us" policy ("We are [Navy] Seals: this is what we do!"). During the first third of the movie, I couldn't rein in my sass: "The Pacifier?" I thought, "Someone ought to pacify this movie!" Or maybe: "Vin, what were you thinking when you signed up for this movie?"

Vin Diesel's having a ball in 'The Pacifier'

Vin Diesel's having a ball in 'The Pacifier'

But about 30 minutes into the film, one of two things happened. Either the 12-year-old kid inside me wrestled and defeated my movie critic within, or the movie actually picked up and got pretty funny the rest of the way.

Vin Diesel (Pitch Black, The Chronicles of Riddick) plays Shane Wolfe, a Navy Seal assigned to care for the family of a government scientist, Howard Plummer (Tate Donovan), who was killed by rebel Serbians because of a high-tech security device, GHOST, that he created for U.S. defense. Since the device is believed to be at the late scientist's residence, Wolfe reports for duty at the Plummer house and meets Mrs. Plummer (Faith Ford); the housekeeper, Helga (Carol Kane); and the five Plummer children, headed up by Zoe (Brittany Snow).

Shane Wolfe (Diesel) has his hands full with all the kids

Shane Wolfe (Diesel) has his hands full with all the kids

Mrs. Plummer departs for a two-week trip in order to take care of business regarding her late husband and Helga quits soon after, leaving Shane alone to baby-sit the Plummer children for the remainder of the two weeks—or the remainder of the movie, whichever comes first. As predicted, the melee begins with rebellious children, diaper and poop jokes, and a slacker-kids-meet-drill-sergeant plotline. And, this is where the story works if you're interested in a family-oriented kids' movie about a tough guy forfeiting his machismo to learn the art of nurturing. This is where the story fails if you're at all expecting the GHOST plot to develop in conjunction with the other plot points.

See, it's almost as if the writers got carried away with brainstorming all the funny things they could do with Vin Diesel's character. At one point, 10-year-old Lulu Plummer (Morgan York) asks Shane why his "boobs" are so big. To which Shane replies, "They're not boobs." But, because the script spends so much time on the irony of Vin Diesel as baby-sitter, the audience might forget that the Plummer family is in grave danger due to government-related safety concerns. After all, it seems that many countries, including North Korea, want GHOST—and are willing to do just about anything for it. But aside from a few karate scenes, the writers forsake that plotline in order to have a duck bite Shane's ear.

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Among the movie's highlights are Brad Garrett (Everyone Loves Raymond) as Vice Principal Murney and Lauren Graham (Gilmore Girls) as Principal Claire Fletcher. Murney is a hotheaded bully ("When you mess with the bull, you get the horns!") and coach of the wrestling squad. (A word of advice: brace yourself for the horrid vision of Brad Garrett in a wrestling singlet. You'll be thinking, Please make it stop! I know I was.) Graham's turn as Principal Fletcher gives the film some credibility—she really cares about the safety of the Plummer kids—and some fresh air—the playground scenes between Graham and Diesel provide a nice alternative to the sometimes stifling scenes in the Plummer household.

Overall, The Pacifier is a fun family film in which parents can applaud such redeeming elements as learning to trust, giving others a chance, and bringing out the good qualities in those people around us.

Talk About It

Discussion starters
  1. Vice Principal Murney bullies Seth Plummer because Seth doesn't want to wrestle. If you were Seth, how would you have handled Mr. Murney's teasing? Do you think Seth ultimately did the right thing?

  2. Do you think it was appropriate for Shane to teach self-defense to members of the Plummer family? Lulu uses her newly gained knowledge to defend herself from a gang of bullying Boy Scouts. Is that acceptable? Why or why not?

  3. When Shane arrives at the Plummer house, he immediately institutes some strict rules of conduct. Do you think his discipline was effective? How did his rules affect the behavior of the Plummer kids?

The Family Corner

For parents to consider

The Pacifier is rated PG for action violence, language, and rude humor. The "action violence" is nothing compared to intense action violence of PG-13 or R-rated movies; rather, it's more along the lines of Spy Kids or even a James Bond movie (not much blood, but lots of explosions and "cool" stuff to look at). While there isn't much on the language front, the rude humor is evident. The movie features much bathroom humor—baby vomit, flatulence, loaded diapers, etc.

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What Other Critics Are Saying

The new film from the director of A Walk to Remember, Adam Shankman, is a comedy tellingly titled The Pacifier. Vin Diesel plays an undercover agent who ends up investigating the sordid secrets of dirty diapers while attempting to protect the family of an important government scientist.

Yep. Oscar season is truly over.

Mary Lasse (Christianity Today Movies) says, "The Pacifier looks like mindless entertainment. And, well, that's mostly what it is throughout." She says it "begins in all the wrong ways: silly dialogue … clichés and predictability … and complete abandonment of the 'Show us, don't tell us' policy." But then she says that, halfway through, "either the 12-year-old kid inside me wrestled and defeated my movie critic within, or the movie actually picked up and got pretty funny the rest of the way."

David DiCerto (Catholic News Service) calls it "embarrassingly unfunny. Clumsily acted and directed, this laugh-free riff on Kindergarten Cop, Daddy Daycare and countless others … reeks more than the many diapers its brooding star changes throughout the film."

Michael Elliott (Movie Parables) notes, "By doing this film, Vin Diesel proves what many have suspected: He may be an action star but he's not much of an actor. Granted, he's not given much to work with. The screenplay is painfully simple and formulaic." Elliott also observes that the death of a certain character seems to have very little effect on other characters close to him.

Marcus Yoars (Plugged In) defends the film: "This is one of those movies critics love to hate. Granted, it's a bit silly and largely uninspired, but The Pacifier isn't completely ineffective. Moms are valued. Discipline is trumpeted. Love and respect are linked. Traitors are loathed. And the good guys win. Besides, who wants to miss watching ex-bouncer Vin Diesel use tongs to change a diaper?"

(Um … I do!)

Annabelle Robertson (Crosswalk) says it's "pretty much a rehashed version of films we've already seen, like Kindergarten Cop and Mr. Nanny. However, for the audience it is targeting, it works." Robertson concludes, "The best thing about The Pacifier is how it honors the military, showing just how competent, skilled and useful that training can be and is, while also highlighting the importance of family, friendships and love, as a counterbalance."

So perhaps the movie isn't a complete waste of time. Perhaps The Pacifier is worth sucking on for a couple of hours. You decide.

Mainstream critics are refusing to accept The Pacifier.

The Pacifier
Our Rating
2 Stars - Fair
Average Rating
(2 user ratings)ADD YOURSHelp
Mpaa Rating
PG (for action violence, language, and rude humor)
Directed By
Adam Shankman
Run Time
1 hour 35 minutes
Vin Diesel, Brittany Snow, Max Thieriot
Theatre Release
March 04, 2005 by Walt Disney Pictures/Spyglass Entertainment
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