Dir:Adam Shankman. US. 2005. 97mins.
Itworked for Arnold Schwarzenegger, so it's not surprising that Vin Diesel tooshould now take a career diversion from action into family comedy. ThePacifier, from Spyglass, Disney and Bringing Down The House directorAdam Shankman, puts the XXX muscle man together with some unruly kidsand a supporting cast of TV names in an adventure-comedy that's too contrivedto produce many real laughs but good-natured enough to be watchable. And whileDiesel doesn't share Arnie's natural comic touch - profitably exploited in theTerminator's own child-minding romp, Kindergarten Cop - he does displaya goofy charm that suggests his first comedy outing might not be his last.
BuenaVista launches the film in the US this weekend (with a PG rating), in themiddle of a run of family movies that includes the similarly themed Man OfThe House and high-profile animated entry Robots. Given the competition -and the disappointing performance of Diesel's previous release, TheChronicles Of Riddick - The Pacifier may not work for long incinemas. It should, however, do much better on video, reaching younger parents,kids and maybe even some teens.
Outsidethe US, Buena Vista will face some real challenges. Diesel has not yet had areally big global hit so seeing him in this kind of unlikely role won't havethe appeal it might in the US. The determinedly wholesome tone might also provea liability, especially in markets that usually prefer their comedy with a bitof an edge.
Diesel'sShane Wolfe is a Navy commando whose record is blemished when he lets ascientist working on a secret government invention get assassinated. While thescientist's wife, Julie Plummer (Ford), helps Navy honchos search for themissing device, Shane is assigned to watch over her family: teen rebel Zoe(Snow, from TV's American Dreams), sullen 14-year-old Seth (Thieriot),feisty eight-year-old Lulu (York, previously seen in Cheaper By The Dozen)and tots Peter and Tyler.
Duringhis crash course in single parenthood, discipline freak Shane crosses pathswith the kids' loopy nanny (Kane), a bullying teacher (Garrett, from sitcom EverybodyLoves Raymond) and attractive head mistress Claire (Graham, star of TV's GilmoreGirls). And he learns, of course, to lighten up and see the lovable sidesof his young charges.
BringingTV reality shows like Wife Swap and Nanny 911 to mind, thescript, by Thomas Lennon and Robert Ben Garant (Taxi, Starsky &Hutch), puts Shane in all the predictable comic situations: changingdiapers, talking baby talk, driving the minivan, etc. A story thread in whichShane helps Seth come to terms with his love of musical theatre is, briefly,less predictable, bringing the film as close as it ever comes to crediblefamily drama.
Asub plot involving ninjas who invade the Plummer home looking for Mr Plummer'ssecret device leads to a few mild action sequences that allow Diesel to showoff his martial arts skills.
Asan actor, Diesel still has a way to go - though, to be fair, his stiffness mayin this case be part of the performance. He sometimes seems over rehearsed forthe comic moments, but he's clearly willing to try anything - the 'panda dance'is hardly the stuff of which action heroes are made - and it's hard not torespond to the warmth that's perceptible through the buff exterior and doublebass voice.
Inthe supporting cast, Graham is likeable as Shane's potential love interest andYork is precociously cute as the one Plummer kid willing to give the tough newhead of the household a chance.
Prodcos: WaltDisney Pictures, Spyglass Entertainment
US dist: BuenaVista
Int'l dist: BVI
Exec prods: Adam Shankman, Jennifer Gibgot, Derek Evans, Garrett Grant, George Zakk
Prods: RogerBirnbaum, Gary Barber, Jonathan Glickman
Scr: ThomasLennon, Robert Ben Garant
Cine: Peter James
Prod des: Linda DeScenna
Main cast: Vin Diesel, Lauren Graham, Faith Ford, Brittany Snow, Max Thieriot,Carol Kane, Brad Garrett, Morgan York