Saturday, March 12, 2005


Confession. Last night I went to see the movie The Pacifier. Yep. I did. The Disney flick got all of 18% fresh tomatoes on (my bible for movie reviews) but I wanted to see it anyway, proving to all that in the end, reviews don't really matter.

A quick synopsis for those who have no idea - Navy SEAL Shane Wolf (Vin Diesel) is given the dubious assignment of safe-guarding the five children of a dead scientist while the scientist's wife leaves the country in search of a top-secret computer program thingy developed by her husband. The short-term op is extended from two days to over two weeks, the hyper-spastic nanny up and quits, and Shane finds himself actually having to take care of two teens with above normal amounts of angst, a precocious grade-school girl, a preschooler and a baby. Throughout the experience he has to overcome the animosity of the kids, an annoying vice principal, and the normal run-of-the-mill tragedies of child-raising that always occur in movie portrayals of the job (see Steve Martin's version of Cheaper By the Dozen for the quintessential example of this). Plus he has to keep the bad guys from getting to the kids or from finding the top-secret computer program thingy that might be hidden in the house.

My motivation for going to this movie as opposed to Million Dollar Baby was...don't laugh...for research. I pretty much lick up anything at all having to do with Navy SEALs. Even the promise of a five minute scene at the very beginning of the movie that shows SEALs in action was enough for me to fork over my $7.50 plus $6 for popcorn and diet coke and commit nearly two hours of precious kid-free me-time. Too, I had never seen a Vin Diesel film, and since my heroes are all buff, studly action-hero types, I figured watching him move about the screen would be at the very least a good exercise in people-watching. How does he walk? What are his expressions? How does he talk? The sorts of things I could later transfer into words on a page so my future readers would picture a Vin Diesel-type in their heads rather than some average joe who I say happens to have lots of muscles.

And as much as I tend to avoid shows and books with kids as a central component to the story (I have kids so I don't need to watch kids acting like kids), there was some draw in the whole Navy SEAL-fish-out-of-water-and-now-in-suburbia scenario. It's a standard plot but with a twist that has relevence in my life now. Not that I'm expecting a Navy SEAL to come hang out at my house and watch my kids. That's just a fantasy. Yes, just a fantasy. Not reality. Keep saying that,

Anyway, I wanted to see how the Disney folks handled the story. Not badly. No, it wasn't high-level fair for the gray matter by any means. But heck, two weeks ago we saw Because of Winn Dixie, and it makes The Pacifier look like Citizen Kane by comparison. The story was trite and predictable, the kids expectedly annoying and cute in turns, and the bad guy obvious from six miles off shore. But Vin Diesel proved surprisingly appealing, and I did get some story ideas out of the whole affair, so I consider it time well spent. Worst part about the movie, to tell you the truth, was the fifty or so 12-year-old girls in the theater audience who chattered through the entire thing. Parents out there, you need to work on movie manners with your kids.

Really, I did get a lot from watching Vin Diesel's portrayal of a Navy SEAL. He exuded quiet confidence mixed with a good part of complete bafflement. He took on the mission handed to him like I imagine a good SEAL would, with nary a complaint but just a determination to gut it out no matter what (and I would guess what he had to go through ranked up there pretty high next to Hell Week as times in his life he'd most like to forget). Neither did he become the classic Drill-Sergeant Emma (Alice's twin-cousin, former drill sergeant Emma who upon coming to stay with the Bradys...well, just look here), requiring calisthenics at oh-five-hundred or surprise bunk inspections with a white glove. He actually maintained a fairly normal routine for kids who had suffered a pretty big trauma with the loss of their father, working to fit into their lives rather than expecting them to adhere to Navy-regulation discipline. He tried...but not very hard.

Too, he demonstrated this amazing lack of reaction in the face of direct provocation. One caricature in the movie (and he was too over the top to be anything but) was the vice principal of the school, a man who openly belittled his students in a way that no real school board would allow. This VP constantly mocked Shane's apparent strength and other aspects of his person, yet throughout it all, Shane merely offered a raised eyebrow in response. Many a times I personally voted that Shane just sucker punch the guy, but it wasn't until Shane had no other option did he engage in any physical reaction. Even that was handled with a huge measure of restraint, which I won't give away because it was one of the funniest scenes in the movie. I just loved that this Navy SEAL was no hotshot showoff as he could have been but rather exactly what I would hope and imagine a good one to be - so confident in his abilities that he has no need to prove anything to anybody.

Hats off have to go to the screenwriters for that aspect of characterization. They could have gone so far in the opposite direction - have Shane knocking down the annoying people he encountered left and right because most of them surely deserved a knock or two - which would have made me wince and cringe. They may not have gotten it all right, but in that one area I thought they were spot on. Vin Diesel, for his part, carried the ball over the goal line by taking what could have been a laughable farce of a role and actually making me see a character who probably would react just the way he did if put in the position he'd been put in. I really liked the guy, above and beyond the great pecs and washboard abs.

And since Vin Diesel proved to be worth the money spent, he'll earn something for his trouble. I plan to check out some other things he's worked on, notably the movies XXX and A Man Apart. (Yeah, yeah, ignore the lousy reviews. Remember, I said reviews don't mean anything in the end if I really want to see something.) My husband will benefit from this because it means no chick flicks on the list of DVDs-to-rent but instead some kick-ass action and major fire-fights for his viewing pleasure.

Do I recommend running out to see this movie? If you have kids in the 8 to 13 year old range and need a movie to break up a winter weekend, sure. If you want to wait until it comes out on DVD, go for it. As an adult alone or on a date with your SO, maybe not. If you're doing research on the way a Navy SEAL might react if given the mission of taking care of five kids, definitely!


Joely Sue Burkhart said...

Hi, Lynn! I'm really looking forward to seeing this movie. The duck looks absolutely hilarious! Finding a babysitter for three little ones might take awhile, though. I think the last movie DH and I saw was Return of the King.

My favorite Vin Diesel movie is definitely Pitch Black. I highly recommend it!

Thanks for the info on The Pacifier!

GutterBall said...

Hello, Lynn! You don't know me, but I'm a big Vin Diesel fan, and I can tell you that, unless you just love cheesy action movies (like I do), your better bet between "xXx" and "A Man Apart" is "A Man Apart".

While AMA is still basically an action movie, it's how they handle the action that steps it above. It's treated more seriously, and there are about three scenes in that flick that convince me that, no matter the muscle-head image, Vin Diesel can ACT. I won't reveal two of them, but I will blurt out the third, as it's not really a surprise.

Basically, Vin's character beats a man to death with his bare hands. Do you realize how rarely Hollywood allows that to happen? He simply pummels the man to death by sheer rage (no weapons, no buddy stopping him at the last minute, no morality taken into consideration at all), then sits back and shudders. The look on his face, the tremble in his hands -- both from adrenaline and reaction -- and this...lost look in his eyes....

Gives me chills. Excellent scene and definitely worth study for possible use in a book. *grins*

However, I agree with Sis: "Pitch Black" is my favorite Vin Diesel movie. Heh.

Lynn M said...

Okay, with your recommendations, the hubby just went and rented "Pitch Black" for us to watch tonight :) He's already seen "Chronicles of Riddick" but didn't even know about the first episode. He's so psyched - I'm nervous because I generally don't like scary movies and I have a feeling I'll be covering my eyes a lot.

And now I just *have* to rent AMA!! Sounds so bloody good...


Joely Sue Burkhart said...

*nervous* I always hate recommending movies to people for fear they won't be impressed. I have to admit I've watched Pitch Black three times this weekend thanks to some character homework I'm doing for a workshop.

I own Chronicles of Riddick and only watched it once. Pitch Black is MUCH better. I've only seen xXx once, and probably won't watch it again. I don't think I've seen the other one Gutterball (my sister) recommended. I'll have to check.

I hope you enjoy Pitch Black!