After their scientist father is assassinated for inventing a top-secret computer program, the Plummer family needs some government protection. So who better for the assignment than Shane Wolfe, a Navy SEAL who’s directed high-risk missions worldwide? Surely this special-ops veteran can handle two teenagers, an 8-year-old girl, a toddler and a baby.
But safely deflecting an enemy threat is one thing; changing a rank diaper or a teenager’s attitude is another. Shane faces a harrowing task in managing a soccer mom’s duties while warding off would-be attackers desperate to get their hands on Mr. Plummer’s creation. With Mrs. Plummer out of the country, it’s up to Shane to pull off Operation: Suburbia.
Shane risks his life for the Plummer family on several occasions. After offering himself to the villains in exchange for the mom, he comments that “these kids don’t need to lose another parent.”
During his babysitting episode, he strikes a compromise with the kids: “If you listen to me, I’ll listen to you.” He also makes an effort to connect with each child, attempting to temporarily fill the void left by the death of their father. He encourages 14-year-old Seth not to quit when everyone rails on him. And he pushes the boy to pursue the things he's passionate about, not just the things he thinks others want him to do. With the older teenager, Zoe, the tough-as-nails SEAL plays friend and psychologist, helping her grieve for her dad, allowing her to talk about her feelings and comforting her. He tells 8-year-old Lulu how much he loves her.
Though the Plummer kids have their typical sibling spats, their love for one another is expressed both verbally and physically. Zoe tells Shane how she’s tried to be emotionally strong for the sake of her entire family. In fact, the older kids often help protect the younger ones, and they all work together for the common good. The family also (eventually) shows Shane respect and appreciation. Shane deserves it and does a great job of "laying down the law" at the initially chaotic Plummer house, setting loving boundaries, instructing the kids on the virtues of self-respect and teaching them that obedience is next to godliness.
Moms everywhere are given a standing ovation of sorts by way of showing how hard (and meaningful) the work is that they do so routinely.
A student holds up a “John 3:16” sign at a wrestling match. Actors portray a group of nuns in a local production of The Sound of Music. (For laughs, one of them is played by a man.)
At the kids' school, the vice principal indirectly approves of boys looking at porn. Lulu comments several times about Shane’s ripped pecs, referring to them as “boobs” and asking if hers will be as big as his when she grows up. In various scenes, Zoe and her principal wear short skirts or show cleavage. Shane is seen parading around the house with only a towel. (He's embarrassed when he realizes he's being watched by a group of giggling Girl Scouts.) Zoe cuddles up on a guy's lap at a party; Shane and the principal kiss.
When the camera tags along with Shane as he goes after terrorists on a boat, we see a helicopter, some jet skis and a boat all get blown up. An on-deck struggle includes punches and kicks, as do most of the handful of predictably choreographed (and entirely bloodless) struggles between the good guys and kung fu-fighting bad guys throughout the movie. Shane gets shot once (no bullet or gore is shown). He and the kids get held at gunpoint on a couple of occasions.
After Shane teaches Lulu’s Girl Scout troop some defensive moves, they use them to ward off—and then forcibly subdue—a bullying group of Boy Scouts. They kick them, sit on them and tie them up. Zoe tries to kick Shane in the crotch. Fighting a villain, Lulu connects in that same spot. Shane kicks in a bedroom door.
Seth hits an intruder in the face with a fire extinguisher. A nanny violently falls down the stairs, then bites Shane's shoulder when he tries to prevent her from leaving the house. Shane gets shocked by a security system. A woman’s hair and face is singed by the same elaborate system (it's played for laughs).
A handful of car chases involve reckless (inexperienced) teen drivers, and one leads to a dramatic crash. Shane “wrestles” the vice principal in front of the entire school (lots of bone-cracking sound effects are heard). True to his militaristic personality, Shane tells a bedtime story to Lulu that involves obliterating an installation of “elves.”
Other Negative Elements
Though Seth heckles the vice principal, what’s more disturbing is the extent to which this teacher lambastes him. From simple name-calling (“creeper,” “twinkle toes,” "prancer," “quitter,” etc.) to allowing Seth to be bullied by members of the wrestling team, the vice principal uses his authority to make life miserable for the teenager. He also makes fun of Shane for being assigned to baby-sit the Plummer kids.
For the first part of the movie, the kids take their frustrations out on Shane by disrespecting him, bossing him around and defying his orders. A teenager calls him a “dork” and lies about sending him on a wild goose chase. The older siblings are infamous for cutting classes and sports practices.
Diaper humor includes footage of Shane accidentally sticking his hand inside a soiled one and diving into a sea of balls at a kiddie restaurant to retrieve one. Shane takes a dip in a smelly sewer. A little boy’s bottom is shown for a few moments after his diaper falls off. A baby's genitals get a flash of screen time.
Punk band Green Day gets free advertising time via a poster on Seth's wall.
Evidently, the hunky Vin Diesel is no longer hoping to reel in the custom-car set. He's now catering to millions of moms by throwing his lot in with a gaggle of cute kids and a toned-down Disney script. Mega-action star plus suburban setting plus lots of poopie jokes equals sure family hit. That's the formula.
This is one of those movies critics love to hate. Maybe it’s the blatant marketing ploys, the simplistic story or the dumbed-down sitcom-style characters. Maybe they think having the name Disney attached renders a film instantly impotent.
Granted, it's a bit silly and largely uninspired, but The Pacifier isn't completely ineffective. Moms are valued. Discipline is trumpeted. Love and respect are linked. Traitors are loathed. And the good guys win. Besides, who wants to miss watching ex-bouncer Vin Diesel use tongs to change a diaper?
The Pacifier won’t placate movie purists, and its depictions of bullying and Agent Cody Banks-grade violence mean it's not appropriate for younger kids. But it is a good-natured flick that manages to avoid the stinker category.