The steadily declining profits of his action vehicles have apparently forced star Vin Diesel to consider his options in other feature film genres beyond that of science fiction and espionage. And for reasons that might always remain a mystery, Diesel chose the very innocuous and tepid experience of a Walt Disney family comedy as his first project. Given his past success in movies full of special effects, explosions, and weapons, it would have seemed a safer course to continue that the vein of action oriented filmmaking with a more careful eye toward script and plot. Better quality control is all that would have been needed to improve the Diesel machine.
But instead of trying to bring back to financial dominance his action hero career, he has suddenly appeared in the lead role of a family comedy that, while it shows some comedic spark here and there, is usually a tepid commodity laced with predictable elements that will probably have viewers wondering if they suffer from narcolepsy. Suffering from the same tired and worn-out family dramatics of other recent Disney Family Fair such as Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen, The Haunted Mansion, and The Princess Diaries 2, Vin Diesel’s hope for comedic success will not in the form of The Pacifier.
The single element of this film that might earn praise from viewers is the physical comedy usually present in every scene. Whether Diesel is making a complete fool of himself in an infantile song and dance number or he’s giving co-star Brad Garrett (who plays a deranged vice principal) a lesson in painful wrestling techniques, whenever Diesel’s character is wreaking havoc, the movie picks up a giant dose of steam. And his child co-stars also seem to fall in step with Diesel’s ability to make viewers temporarily forget the flaccid script. Although Lauren Graham and Faith Ford are wasted in their small roles, Brad Garrett gives the picture a welcome hilarity.
But in case you forget to laugh when someone trips, falls, or farts in this film, the story and its characters probably won’t leave you much more to lean on. The same formula is a fine jumping-off point in which to begin negotiations in creativity regarding the characters and/or dialogue presented in a film whose plot isn’t exactly fresh. The Disney family film is something with expected elements and results and the only way it succeeds is if the familiarity of it all is well-hidden by the writers or by spectacular performances. The Pacifier possesses such a dismal script (or perhaps it was the editing that took the screenwriters down a notch?) that it would have been a difficult task for Laurence Olivier to improve it.
It simply isn’t enough for a film to boast professional filmmaking techniques and a basic physical product that could compete with anything currently in theaters. But just because a film has everything you’d expect doesn’t mean the filmmakers are let off the hook in their need to find some new way to twist the material. Often a film is a comfortable, enjoyable experience simply because you know what’s coming around the corner. But expecting the audience to expect what you’re giving them is a dangerous game when the expectation is something akin to a can of warm, flat Dr. Pepper.
Diesel’s performance really can’t be rated as good or bad in this film because even if he had put every effort into creating a memorable character, there wasn’t really anything for him to work with, creatively speaking, regarding his character. And neither does the shoddy dialogue itself really deserve the respect of a positive or negative comment on its effectiveness. A feature film is purportedly a creative endeavor, though audiences wouldn’t guess that from a viewing of The Pacifier. The basic plot idea driving the film, a disgraced Navy SEAL finding his next assignment in the home of a woman with several kids, might have seen promise in its initial stages of development, but as a finished product, the plot holes really can’t be considered plot holes.
They’re more like plot galaxies. The idea for the film makes easy fodder for the person responsible for creating the movie poster and the film’s tagline, but in what might be filed under unfortunate irony, this film will probably pull in some decent box office because of two factors. The first is Diesel’s proven capacity as a box office draw. His presence in the film guarantees a certain amount of tickets sold. And since the film’s promotional materials (like the movie poster) are plastered with the Disney name, there is also a built-in audience that will show up to buy tickets regardless of the quality of the film.
The screenwriters of The Pacifier have collaborated on more than one film together as writers, with writers Thomas Lennon and Ben Garant each possessing years of experience in the film “industry.” But perhaps it’s not fair to place the blame on any one party involved in this film. Although there will be no complaints regarding such topics as cinematography, editing, and production design, it’s not enough for a film to simply look good. This film is expectantly bland, but the filmmakers were under no obligation to deliver a product even the most casual moviegoer would find tired. And for heaven’s sake, dialogue really didn’t have to include gems like, “Isn’t it about time you go nappy-poo in beddy-bye land?”