Anyway, sticking to a carbon-copy, clichéd filled, plot-holed riddled, paint-by-the-numbers script, we have the same ‘ol, same ‘ol story: ace CIA agent J.J. (Dave Bautista) has just kicked major butt in stopping a terrorist plot, but in doing so, he accidentally let a bad guy named Victor Marquez (Greg Bryk) escape. Due to this bungle, J.J.’s boss (Ken Jeong) assigns him a boring surveillance job on Victor’s step-sister Kate (Parisa Fitz-Henley) and her little 9-year-old daughter, Sophie (Chloe Coleman) in hopes Victor will show up. But while J.J. and his new partner Bobbi (Kristen Schaal) set up shop in the apartment next door, Sophie miraculously discovers their secret lair and identities in a matter of minutes. Yeah, she’s that good.
Being lonely, bullied at school, and wanting a friend, Sophie instantly latches onto J.J. and blackmails him into learning “the spy game”. J.J., naturally, at first objects to this kid’s manipulations, but later agrees to do whatever she asks of him. There are your usual montages where J.J. (like Leon in The Professional) teaches Sophie stuff like how to lie and, in a rather funny moment, how to slo-mo walk away from an explosion. But you can’t have an action/spy/rom-com without the rom, so J.J. and Kate start dating which soon leads to the inevitable second act break up (she finds out he’s really CIA) which ends with a third act reconciliation (J.J. returns to save Sophie, Kate, and the day!).
Yes, it’s everything you’ve ever seen before in every movie ever, thanks to screenwriters Jon and Erich Hoeber (The Meg, Battleship) who, despite writing every movie cliché into this film, managed to sneak in some genuinely funny moments and bits of dialogue. My beef isn’t so much that it’s badly written, but it had SO much potential for real comedy gold. You can see it right there on the screen, but it’s lost due to the sloppy and poor direction by Peter Segal, which is puzzling since he gave us such gems as Tommy Boy, Get Smart, and The Nutty Professor II: The Klumps. What the hell happened?? This movie could have been saved if the camera work were better, the timing was sharper, or if the editing was tighter. It was all there!!
Then you had the biggest mistake: Dave Bautista. As Drax in the MCU, he’s fantastic, but here he’s like Vin Diesel in The Pacifier, trying to do comedy schtick and looking nervous doing it. Remember his work in Stuber? Egads! Totally miscast as J.J., emotionless Bautista grunts and growls his way through the movie and ends up being upstaged by young Chloe Coleman, who acts rings around massive Dave. When a child can out-act a lead adult, something’s wrong. For comic relief, you have Schaal who does her usual goofy thing, but it was nice to see Ken Jeong playing a normal, serious guy for once. Parisa Fitz-Henley is very good with a nice range of emotions, but is under-used for my money. Clearly, this movie is for the kids, so if you want to rent/stream it, it won’t be too bad.
Available on Prime Video.
The Pacifier (2005)
Stop me if you’ve heard of this one: a tough-as-nails guy takes control of a house full of unruly kids and, in the process, slowly earns their respect and love. Yeah, that plot has been done before in Mr. Nanny, The Spy Next Door, Parental Guidance, Suburban Commando, Santa With Muscles, and THIS one by actor, director, and choreographer Adam Shankman, who gave us that 2019 dismal remake, What Men Want.
I guess someone at Disney thought it would be hilarious to put gravely-voiced Vin Diesel into a comedy, even though the man can’t do funny. Here he is as a decorated and highly skilled Navy Seal named Shane Wolfe (catchy name, huh?) who, after successfully rescuing a noted scientist from some bad guys, accidentally gets him killed and blames himself. Afterward, his boss wants Shane to look after the widow’s five kids while the scientist’s wife (Faith Ford), jets off to Zurich to get some McGuffin… sorry, I mean, some secret safe deposit box, which apparently takes two weeks to get.
Meanwhile, Shane, all piss and military gung-ho, revels in his new assignment: whipping these snot-nosed children into shape! There’s scared 10-year-old Lulu (Morgan York) who has a Girl Scout-ish troop, bratty older teen Zoe (Brittany Snow) that needs to pass her driving test at school, and introverted and sullen young teen Seth (Max Theriot) who’s hiding a secret acting talent, plus a baby & and a toddler. While trying to care for these kids, Shane is also looking for the “Ghost Protocol”, a mysterious computer chip or CD hidden somewhere in the house. Oh, and there’s obnoxious Gary, the family’s pet duck. I’m serious. They have a pet duck. Not a dog, or a cat, or a fish. A frickin’ duck. Oy!
Anyway, even though the kids are hassled at school by a bully, it’s the vice-principal (Brad Garrett) who delights in verbally harassing the teens! The principal (Lauren Graham), an ex-Navy petty officer herself, tries to help out Shane, but this is one hardened Navy Seal who is NOT going to fail another mission, dammit! After a ridiculous fight with stick-wielding ninjas (not samurai’s, STICKS!!), Shane and the kids bond. Time to cue the A-typical montage scene and see how each child gets to be super-duper best buddies with their new nanny. The ending when the mom returns with the final reveal twist is stupid, contrived, and just laughable.
A cookie-cutter script by Thomas Lennon (Balls of Fire) and Robert Ben Garant (Herbie: Fully Loaded) leaves one to wonder WHY this movie was ever made to begin with. Maybe because the lead was supposed to go Dwayne Johnson, Bruce Willis, or Jackie Chan (Chan went on to do The Spy Next Door; the same kind of movie). No doubt about it, Vin Diesel is great as an action hero (the Riddick & Fast ‘n’ Furious franchises), but put him in a slapstick comedy? With children? Uh… no. Diesel looks SO out-of-place and nervous that you can see it in his stiff, uneven acting. In other words? Hard pass on this one, people!