As "The Pacifier" opens, Navy SEAL Shane Wolfe (Vin Diesel) attempts a daring rescue of a kidnapped scientist. Single-handedly, Wolfe scoops up the man from a cabin cruiser and hauls him aboard a helicopter when all hell breaks loose.
The next thing Wolfe knows, he's assigned to guard the late scientist's five children while their mother is off to a Swiss bank to retrieve her husband's secret invention, a highly advanced security system strongly coveted, of course, by America's enemies.
This is an amusing prologue to a picture that has sufficient mayhem to please Diesel's action fans while allowing the star to reach out to family audiences. The children, to whom the scientist's widow (Faith Ford) reveals the full extent of the danger they may be in, resent Wolfe's taking over their household and running it in strict military fashion. The five children range in age from high schoolers to a baby, and the three oldest rebel. But Wolfe is no pushover, not even when the baby's comically feisty Romanian nanny (Carol Kane) decamps. A man in whom a sense of responsibility is deeply instilled, Wolfe is swiftly up to his ears in dirty diapers, chauffeuring duties, running a household and, without realizing it, becoming a dedicated parent, all the while alert to constant danger.
Director Adam Shankman and writers Thomas Lennon and Robert Ben Garant have lots of fun with "The Pacifier's" premise, and they run with it -- even getting away with Wolfe taking over the direction of a community theater production of "The Sound of Music." The attraction between Wolfe and the children's principal (Lauren Graham) is instant, but Shankman and his writers don't let it become a distraction, just as they refrain from allowing Wolfe to have an immediate standoff with the school's oafish pseudo-macho VP and wrestling coach (Brad Garrett) and trust the audience to sense there will be an inevitable showdown.
"The Pacifier" is briskly paced but never feels rushed, which allows Wolfe to develop a real relationship with his charges. The eldest three are played by Brittany Snow, Max Thieriot and Megan York, all of whom emerge as distinct individuals. The film is a reminder that, as with more specialized fare, it takes artistry and skill to pull off even the most mainstream movies.
MPAA rating: PG for action violence, language and rude humor
Times guidelines: Suitable family fare, action violence standard and not excessive
Vin Diesel...Shane Wolfe
Lauren Graham...Principal Claire Fletcher
Faith Ford...Julie Plummer
A Buena Vista Pictures release of a Walt Disney Pictures presentation in association with Spyglass Entertainment of a Birnbaum/Barber production. Director Adam Shankman. Producers Roger Birnbaum, Gary Barber and Jonathan Glickman. Executive producers Adam Shankman and Jennifer Gibgot. Screenplay by Thomas Lennon & Robert Ben Garant. Cinematographer Peter James. Editor Christopher Greenbury. Music John Debney. Costumes Kirston Mann. Production designer Linda DeScenna. Art director Arv Grewal. Set decorators Ric McElvin, Steve Shewchuk. Running time: 1 hour, 35 minutes. In general release.