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The Pacifier DVD Review

The Pacifier (2005) movie poster - click to buy The Pacifier

Theatrical Release: March 4, 2005 / Running Time: 95 Minutes / Rating: PG

Director: Adam Shankman

Cast: Vin Diesel (Lt. Shane Wolfe), Lauren Graham (Principal Claire Fletcher), Faith Ford (Julie Plummer), Brittany Snow (Zoe Plummer), Max Thieriot (Seth Plummer), Chris Potter (Capt. Bill Fawcett), Carol Kane (Helga), Brad Garrett (Vice Principal Murney), Morgan York (Lulu Plummer), Keegan Hoover / Logan Hoover (Peter Plummer), Bo Vink / Luke Vink (Baby Tyler), Tate Donovan (Howard Plummer), Denis Akayama (Mr. Chun), Mung-Ling Tsui (Mrs. Chun)

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Released in the middle of what Hollywood considers the off-season, The Pacifier seemingly came out of nowhere to become a major blockbuster, one of the year's few thus far and one of Disney's biggest live action earners ever with a current domestic total of $111 million. Having now seen the film, it's not too difficult for me to understand its success. While its premise isn't entirely original nor is anything else about it, The Pacifier follows formulas and meets expectations, making it a light family comedy that's easy to swallow and sure to divert the kids who, like adults, have mostly had slim pickings at the cinema this year.

The Pacifier is very much a star vehicle for Vin Diesel, whose luminosity may have been in question as the years passed since his two blockbuster hits (The Fast and the Furious and XXX) informed that this bald, muscular presence was Hollywood's next action star.
The film's setup may seem familiar enough; take an imposing action star, put him in the midst of children. The same thing worked fifteen years earlier when Arnold Schwarzenegger's Kindergarten Cop won over audiences. What else can we really expect from a production where the first two credit lines are "Walt Disney Pictures Presents" and "Vin Diesel"?

The film begins with a dramatic opening sequence establishing Diesel's character Navy S.E.A.L. Lt. Shane Wolfe. As Wolf commands, those in his company embark on a multi-faceted plan to stop some foreign baddies traveling by ship and helicopter. All of this hubbub is to save a professor, who has some top-secret information they're after. When it looks like the rescue is completed, it's not. The professor dies only shortly after revealing he has five kids and Shane is apparently hurt badly. Cut quickly to two months later and Shane is more or less recovered and ready for his next assignment.

Shane Wolfe is a Navy S.E.A.L. Just look at the uniform. Shane gives the Plummer children tracking devices to wear.

From the trailer, commercials, poster, DVD cover, etc., you are well aware that Shane's new post is not going to be another explosive adventure in some distant country, but suburbia. Shane is assigned to look after the five Plummer children in their Bethesda, Maryland home while their Mom (Faith Ford) travels to Switzerland to claim the contents of a safety deposit box belonging to her husband, the late professor. This sets the stage for a familiar fish-out-of-water comedy, where the fish is a no-nonsense Navy S.E.A.L. and the water is the high-impact terrain he's used to treading. Mom says she'll be back in 48 hours, but we all know that can't happen. It wouldn't allow enough time for the ever-serious Shane to accept and appreciate his duty as babysitter, a direction The Pacifier inevitably heads toward.

The film relies almost entirely on the mismatching of the military officer and the domestic setting familiar to most kids who see Disney films. To ensure that there's a character for young audiences to identify with, the Plummer children run the gamut from two in diapers to two lightly-troubled teens, with a cute young girl in between. Much of the comedy that ensues is obvious and physical, from the Plummers' pet duck Gary (who, as anyone who watched TV this past winter knows, introduces himself to Shane with a bite to the ear) to baby Tyler's diaper (which poses the natural dilemma for his new caretaker). Occasionally, The Pacifier offers some clever humor, but the moments are rather few and far between.

Shane settles into his role by standing up to "the bad guys" who threaten the Plummer children in any way, from oafish wrestling coach/vice principal "The Murninator" (Brad Garrett) to two random ninjas who intrude the house, from an unworthy boyfriend to a bullying bunch of boy scouts. At first, the kids aren't crazy about taking loud orders from a man clearly out of his element, but the thrill of having their own personal Superman soon wins them over. Of course, the children accepting their authoritative temporary custody wouldn't be enough; Shane has to be willing to understand them too. Naturally, he succeeds in adapting to the suburban parent's lifestyle (living up to the "World's Greatest Mother" bumper sticker on the Plummers' minivan). Before too long, he's helping out Seth (Max Thieriot) with his school play and becoming a surrogate Driver's Ed instructor to Zoe (Brittany Snow). Cutesy moves like this are where The Pacifier appeals to audiences and almost wavers into "good movie" territory.

Making sure they don't forget to pack their lunches. Brad Garrett's detestable wrestling coach gets what's coming to him when he agrees to a match with Shane at the end of the school day.

Ultimately, the film can be deemed mediocre from a critical standpoint, but The Pacifier seems more interested in meriting laughs and applause from moviegoers than earning high marks from reviewers. In all fairness, the film is entertaining enough throughout, from its prolonged setup to the expected but exciting climactic finale.
Predictable and silly though it may be, this outing serves cinema's essential need for escapism. While the Plummers' mother apparently spends days at the European bank trying to come up with her late husband's secret password, the viewer is not concerned with the logic being defied but rather with the affable proceedings taking place at home.

Vin Diesel's limited acting skills are forgivable since they seem to fit the character he's playing, even if he's called to stretch his chops by singing and crying in this performance. The Plummer children are played by young actors unknown to most viewers (Brittany Snow, star of the recently cancelled "American Dreams" might be the exception); they perform capably in their roles from cutesy tots to angst-ridden teens though none particularly stand out. Carol Kane is reduced to a thankless bit part (for her second Disney film in a row) as a quirky, accented and soon dismissed nanny. Brad Garrett is strictly the butt of jokes, donning an unflattering wrestling uniform and an unfortunate personality all for the sake of laughs and, mostly, in vain. Despite her second billing, Lauren Graham (of the undying WB drama "Gilmore Girls") has a rather small role as school principal and potential love interest, which she pulls off fine.

There are not too many surprises in The Pacifier, but its familiarity has been and will continue to be met by plenty of embracing viewers, primarily those who are used to the backseat of a minivan. The PG rating is appropriate for the fair amount of violence present, but those not quite in middle school will still be able to handle it just fine. In fact, they'll probably enjoy it the most. Older audiences may appreciate a couple of well-timed song selections and the infrequent sensibility the film displays, but otherwise it's fairly standard fare.

Buy The Pacifier (Widescreen Edition) from Amazon.com DVD Details

2.35:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
(Reformatted Fullscreen Available Separately)
Dolby Digital 5.1 (English, French)
Subtitles: English, French
Closed Captioned
Release Date: June 28, 2005
Single-sided, dual-layered disc (DVD-9)
Suggested Retail Price: $29.99
White Keepcase

VIDEO and AUDIO

The Pacifier is presented in its original 2.35:1 theatrical aspect ratio (it actually measures closer to 2.40:1) and has of course been enhanced for widescreen televisions. A reformatted fullscreen version is sold separately, and for a film this wide, you'll definitely want to make sure you get this Widescreen DVD and not the one that loses almost half the picture. Though it's not the type of film you might think calls for the wider aspect ratio, the film makes a good use of its dimensions and is presented without any noticeable flaws. The transfer is bright, sharp, and clean, satisfying you visually the way a movie still in theaters should on DVD.

Baby in hand, shopping at Costco....where have I seen this before? Shane shows Lulu and her fellow Fireflies some moves.

The Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack is well-mixed and appropriately active. Of course, the early action scenes are demanding, but the rest of the film doesn't slouch either, between a crescendoing score and a good use of atmospheric effects, from a Chuck E. Cheese-like restaurant to the student-packed gym excited to see Shane wrestle their vice principal.
The militaristic score later gives way to alternative rock selections and more sentimental instrumentals as the film wavers towards emotion. All of the music comes through strong and clear, never dominating the crisp dialogue. In short, the audio presentation does not leave you disappointed in any way.

BONUS FEATURES

The disc offers a number of bonus features, but all (except for one) are marked by a short running time. The first section is Deleted Scenes. Five brief and inconsequential sequences are housed here. There are two more scenes with Brad Garrett's wrestling coach (though one is basically an alternate of what's in the movie), a few seconds of a scene where Shane plays kickball with the students, a short piece that would extend a climactic chase, and a heart-to-heart between Shane and Gary the duck. Altogether, with the "Play All" option provided, the scenes (which are presented in non-anamorphic widescreen) run just three minutes; the longest one is about sixty seconds. Deleted scenes are always welcome and while it's conceivable that there weren't many for The Pacifier, at least four mentioned in the commentary aren't included. An introduction to the lot would have been nice.

Next is the Blooper Reel (2:32), which is one of the least entertaining of its kind that I have come across. Nary a botched line or funny moment in sight; instead it's just mild on-set antics set to music. Perhaps it was a particularly uneventful shoot because this montage makes it look like they really were scraping for bonus material.

The remaining extras are housed in the Backstage Disney section. At 4 minutes, "Brad Garrett: Unpacified" is the longest video extra. It mixes rowdy, sarcastic on-set footage of Garrett from the wrestling scene with calm, sarcastic interview sound bites from the supporting actor. "On the Set with Mr. Diesel: Action Hero/Nice Guy" (2:38) is comprised of the star being goofy and friendly with his youngest co-stars and some comments from cast and crew members on how great he was to be around.

More than you might want to see in "Brad Garrett: Unpacified." "On the Set with Mr. Diesel: Action Hero/Nice Guy" - his young co-stars are keeping mum on the subject. The inspired animated main menu cycles through the Plummer children.

Next is "Special Ops TV Commercials", which believe it or not, delivers five television spots for The Pacifier. And we thought Disney had done away with promotional materials on DVDs! There's not much to say about the four 30-second spots and one 15-second spot; they're fun and make you want to see the movie, and it's nice to have them preserved. Of course, the DVD is inanely lacking the full theatrical trailer which highlighted some of the film's strongest standalone comedic bits. The ads' inclusion suggests less of Disney trying to please fans than to have something to throw to them and to put on the back of the case.

Last is the most (and only) substantial bonus feature: a full-length audio commentary with director Adam Shankman and writers Thomas Lennon and Robert Ben Garant. Their discussion of the film is highly sarcastic and sometimes quite funny.
Naturally, the writers focus on their script - we learn they wrote the film for Jackie Chan and of various revisions made all the way through shooting. Shankman's comments are more about the on-set experience, from what actors brought to what was filmed on a set versus on location in Toronto. Some of the most amusing bits of this lighthearted conversation: the trio ironically reveal some of their everyday moviemaking tricks as if they are highly unusual, there's lots of talk about how Lauren Graham's hair looks each scene she's in, and the commentary concludes (about a quarter into the end credits) with jokey sequel ideas.

The 16x9 menus do a great job of matching the film thematically and providing a visually interesting way to navigate the DVD. The Main Menu follows up a little Shane as Navy S.E.A.L. action montage with a computer like Shane's which cycles through the children he looks after, while a baby's bottle drips milk off to the side. Clever. Transitions and submenus are equally inspired, using images, objects, and score selections from the film for its house-themed layout.

As usual, the disc starts off with a number of previews for other Disney films and DVDs: the ubiquitous Chicken Little teaser, a title-only teaser for The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe, and DVD spots for Ice Princess and The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. The Sneak Peeks menu provides additional promos for Aliens of the Deep, ABC's "According to Jim" and the Halloweentown movies.

Shane discovers his new assault weapon: a Minivan. Uh-oh! Hot water burn baby!

CLOSING THOUGHTS

The Pacifier is built around the premise of a Navy S.E.A.L. accepting the challenge of five children and it plays out more or less the way you'd imagine. While sticking to formulas, the film is understandably a crowd-pleaser; its robust and resilient box office performance is a testament to its appeal. For the lower grade school sect, it no doubt presents a bit of laughs and excitement. Outside of that demographic, it remains entertaining (but certainly unexceptional) as a bit of innocuous escapism.

As for the DVD, the terrific audio and video presentation merit no complaints, but for a new film (and a high-grossing one at that), The Pacifier is rather skimpy on bonus features. The lack of a general production featurette is surprising (even the Disney Channel Movie Surfers fluff would do) and something resembling the official website's fun Minivan game would have been a welcome inclusion. The sarcastic commentary is worth a listen for fans, but supplement enthusiasts will feel cheated on the whole.

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Reviewed June 11, 2005.