Family films don’t have to be bad. “School of Rock” reminded us of that. But casting a strong lead (like Jack Black) is only one part of the solution, and many family films — most of Eddie Murphy’s recent work, for example — rely on trite formula and rarely end up being memorable.
Watching “The Pacifier” recalls the remake of “Freaky Friday.” Though not as consistent or ultimately satisfying as that feature, “The Pacifier” should not be judged by its first 20 minutes. For like “Freaky Friday,” even when you think you can predict everything the film will do, enough genuine heartfelt moments break through and the pre-teen humor has just enough edge to retain a parent’s attention. In these films, pacing is everything. “The Pacifier” accelerates just when Vin Diesel’s acting ability starts to wane.
Diesel stars as Shane Wolfe, a Navy SEAL commissioned to bodyguard a family of five kids while their mother (Faith Ford) goes oversees to secure the military-sensitive contents of her late husband’s security box. The marginal plot boils down to “Mr. Mom” meets “Kindergarten Cop.” Diesel’s Shane implements his military know-how while connecting and bonding with each kid.
So why see “The Pacifier?” Well, for those disinclined to admire Captain Vin Trapp, (an intentional “Sound of Music” reference), especially those begrudging Diesel’s ridiculously fast-tracked superstardom (two films = a $20 million paycheck), it’s worth noting that he’s easy to warm up to.
The kids are decent, especially little Lulu (Morgan York) who kinda falls for the pectorally enhanced sitter, as Wolfe teaches Lulu and her Firefly troop martial arts. But the best scenes involve Brad Garrett (TV’s “Everybody Loves Raymond”), who gets some mileage out of his preening macho vice-principal/wrestling coach character.
Rated PG for violence.