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MRQE Top Critic

The Great Train Robbery

(review...)

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There’s not a whole lot to suck on in The Pacifier, action star and master thespian Vin Diesel’s paean to the family comedy.

Adventures in Babysitting

DVD extra: Diesel conversing poolside with Gary the duck
DVD extra: Diesel conversing poolside with Gary the duck

Shane Wolfe (Diesel, xXx) is a Navy SEAL whose mission to rescue a Department of Defense security expert from a gang of Serbians gets botched. His bounty gets killed and Wolfe’s injuries land him in the hospital for two months.

With some loopy logic, given his involvement in the mission that lead to Plummer’s death, Wolfe is assigned to watch over Plummer’s platoon of children in Maryland while the mother, Julie (Faith Ford, TV’s Murphy Brown), jets off for a daytrip to Switzerland to retrieve the contents of a lockbox belonging her to deceased husband.

Naturally, Julie’s mission winds up taking a little longer than anticipated, leaving Wolfe with the most challenging mission of his career: babysitting five oh-so-loveable brats.

The guy’s a wiz, single-handedly installing an entire house security system in less than half a conspicuously placed pop song. It’s just a shame he sucks with children, who give him the heebie-jeebies.

And diapers? Fuhgeddaboudit.

It’s another “giddy-at-the-possibilities” high-concept Hollywood contraption the likes of which has not been seen on the big screen since Arnold Schwarzenegger took to the chalkboard in Kindergarten Cop. At least Schwarzenegger had some charisma.

Plummer’s Crack

This is the stuff that should earn significant hazard pay for any well-meaning parent stuck with Pacifier-viewing duty.

The biggest problem here is Diesel. He’s terrible in the lead role, particularly when he has to sing children’s songs and act childish in front of the youngest Plummers. It’s clear he’s not acting uncomfortable, he really is uncomfortable and unable to get under the skin of material that doesn’t even go skin deep.

That’s not to diss Diesel entirely. He showed great promise in his relatively small role in Saving Private Ryan. But that film was directed by Steven Spielberg, a guy who knows a thing or two about directing and getting the best from child actors (or, in Diesel’s case, actors with talent similar to children).

Perhaps Diesel should stick to either small roles or working with competent directors, both of which have been lacking in his career since 1997.

On the bright side, Brad Garrett (TV’s Everybody Loves Raymond) and Carol Kane (TV’s Taxi) offer some desperately needed goofiness in their supporting roles. And a subplot involving Seth Plummer’s (Max Thieriot, Catch That Kid) role in a high school production of The Sound of Music provides some decent music in place of the blaring and unimpressive pastiche of kid-friendly pop songs. Besides, there’s actually a bit of (most likely unintentional) wit to be had: Christopher Plummer starred in the 1965 classic movie.

Aside from that, The Pacifier is not all that funny. Its incompetent writing makes it seem more suitable for a Disney Sunday night TV movie than the big screen; it’s no small irony, then, that the shmucktsers behind the screenplay, Robert Ben Garant and Thomas Lennon, have credits chock full o’ TV shows, including Reno 911!

DVD Extras

A happy, glossy spin is put on all the DVD’s supplemental features. Given it’s a simple Disney comedy, there’s a fair amount of extra stuff, but that’s not to say the supplementals are even remotely worthwhile.

For starters, there’s a running commentary by the director and the writers, none of whom have a résumé with any degree of distinction. It’s one of the most insipid commentaries ever recorded. These guys yap away and think they’re hilarious, but to those of us outside the recording booth, they’re a painful annoyance to listen to for 96 minutes and the yammering actually makes the movie even less enjoyable in retrospect. The commentary stinks more than all of the movie’s fart and poop jokes combined. P-U!

One interesting revelation amidst the agony: the scribes wrote the movie with Jackie Chan in mind. He wisely stayed away. Far away.

Also on board are roughly 14 minutes worth of bloopers, deleted scenes, Pacifier commercials, and suck-up featurettes extolling the allegedly bottomless talents of Vin Diesel and Brad Garrett. The bloopers are an extreme waste of time and the rest of the supplementals are as empty as the movie, although a deleted scene with Diesel conversing poolside with Gary the duck is charming. Maybe Gary will get lucky and land the lead role in a remake of Howard the Duck.

Picture and Sound

The DVD’s widescreen (2.35:1) 16x9-enhanced presentation works for the material. There’s nothing quite like a poopy diaper joke in anamorphic widescreen.

Also adequate is the Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound; it’s not showcase material, but, once again, it works for the material. Also on board are a French language track as well as English captions and French subtitles.