Lt. Shane Wolfe (Vin Diesel, Chronicles of Riddick) is a poster boy for the Navy SEALs: fearless, noble and super-sexy in that form-fitting wet suit. Wolfe and his fellow SEALs perform a daring high seas operation to rescue an American scientist from a terrorists’ ship. Alas, our scientist is later killed in an ambush that also injures Wolfe.
Wolfe leaves the hospital, disgraced and depressed, to face his new assignment: live with and protect the slain scientist’s five children while his widow (Faith Ford, Beethoven’s 5th) is out of the country. The bereaved Mrs. Plummer travels to Switzerland (accompanied by a Navy officer with too many medals on his chest) to retrieve her late husband’s secret formula. But you know those persnickety Swiss bankers. Even though the key to the planet’s survival rests in one of their shiny metal safe-deposit boxes, they won’t give Mrs. Plummer access until she guesses the password.
Meanwhile, back in the family castle, the Plummer kids refuse to believe they’re in danger. Still grieving for their father, they hate Wolfe on sight — and the lifelong bachelor isn’t too thrilled with them either. It seems that Dad, though lovable, was hardly ever home, so his offspring are undisciplined monsters. But this is a Disney flick, so while the kids have a dysfunction or two, they’re essentially salvageable. There’s the snotty teenage girl, Zoe (Brittany Snow), the misunderstood teenage boy, Seth (Max Thierot), the little girl too smart for her years, Lulu (Morgan York), the shy kindergartener, Peter (Kegan and Logan Hoover), and the gurgling baby (Bo and Luke Vink).
While the two older kids are good for the requisite family-movie adolescent temper tantrums, the real stars of The Pacifier are the three youngest children. There’s no secret to making kids laugh: Dirty diaper jokes and bare butt scenes do it every time. The little ones in the audience laughed so much that even if you think this is the stupidest movie ever made (it is one of them), you can’t possibly keep a straight face.
Helping out the Plummer family is a European nanny played by the great schizoid femme fatale herself, Carol Kane (Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen). Unfortunately, Ms. Kane exits The Pacifier after a short while, taking with her the movie’s only surreal zaniness. Wolfe is left to handle the children by himself, meaning that the rest of the movie is paint-by-number silliness.
Wolfe struggles bravely to fulfill his mission. He brings order out of chaos. He changes diapers, packs lunches, gets the kids to school on time. He teaches Zoe how to drive, directs Seth in The Sound of Music and even performs the Peter Panda bedtime dance. Eventually, Wolfe becomes the Dad every child dreams of — an everyday superhero who comes home every night and can beat the smithereens out of schoolyard bullies.
Helping Wolfe transform himself into the family pacifier is the dedicated school principal, Claire Fletcher (Lauren Graham, Bad Santa), who just happens to be a former Navy petty officer. She holds rank on Wolfe, leading to some flirty sailor repartee.
The bad guys resurface and threaten havoc, but surrogate Daddy Wolfe saves the day with a little help from a returned mother, a new driver and a goosing duck. The Pacifier is bloodless, sexless and predictable. And when you hear all those kids around you squealing their heads off, it’s great fun, too. Rated PG for action violence, language and rude humor.
– reviewed by Marci Miller