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Thursday, March 3, 2005 03:12 pm

movie review

art1864

When socialite bimbo Paris Hilton lost her phone book, the private numbers of her celebrity friends, including that of actor Vin Diesel, ended up on the Internet. Good thing — now that I have his number, I can ring Diesel up and tell him his career is now officially toast.

Really, it’s a shame. Diesel is a performer for whom I once had high hopes. With his notable turns in Pitch Black and Boiler Room, both in 2000, and his breakout performance in the surprise hit of 2001, The Fast and the Furious, Diesel was anointed by critics as the most promising new star of the 21st century. He seemed on track to become cinema’s introspective man of action, a role left vacant years earlier by the death of Steve McQueen. However, with the bloated action flick XXX (2002), the underappreciated and little-seen A Man Apart (2003), and last year’s nonsensical The Chronicles of Riddick, Diesel has turned has-been before he ever was.

His latest effort, The Pacifier, shows just how desperate he’s become to get back into his audience’s good graces and prove that he can still deliver at the box office.

This family comedy from Disney, which uses the age-old duck-out-of-water premise perfected in Kindergarten Cop — and done to death in the recent Raising Helen, Are We There Yet?, and Man of the House and the yet-to-be-released Rebound, is obviously a work of stunning originality. The formula is simple: Throw a tough guy into a situation in which he must contend with a group of precocious (read: pain-in-the-ass) kids, and let the hilarity begin.

Tough guy Vin must deal with stinky diapers, rebellious teens, childhood crushes, and bullies . . . and ends up showing his charges how to believe in themselves. Did I mention that there’s a car chase at the end? And that, in the end, Vin turns into a big softy?

As agonizingly predictable as The Pacifier is, I give it kudos for well-choreographed fight scene with two ninjas, the inclusion of a pet duck (I’m a sucker for ducks), and a mercifully short running time of just over 90 minutes.

Also in theaters this week . . .

Be Cool [PG-13] Disenchanted with the movie industry, Chili Palmer is tired of the movie business so he tries the music industry instead, and along the way, romances the widow of a music executive. ShowPlace West, ShowPlace East

Because of Winn-Dixie [PG] A 10-year-old girl, abandoned by her mother when she was a toddler, moves to a small town in Florida with her father, a preacher. She adopts a stray dog, meets townsfolk, and rekindles a relationship with her dad. ShowPlace West, ShowPlace East

Boogeyman [PG-13] A man is forced to return home to face the memories of a traumatic childhood. ShowPlace West

Constantine [R] John Constantine is a traveling, misfit supernatural investigator who teams up with police detective Angela Dodson to figure out her twin sister’s death. Parkway Pointe, ShowPlace East

Cursed [PG-13] A werewolf in LA attacks a sister and brother. They have to kill the critter to reverse the effects of the attack. ShowPlace West, ShowPlace East

Diary of a Mad Black Woman[PG-13] Just before their 20th anniversary, a man asks his wife for a divorce so he can take up with her best friend. She’s not happy. Parkway Pointe

Dogville [R] Grace hides in the isolated township of Dogville, where residents agree to hide her if she agrees to work for them. They demand more when her pursuers arrive, not knowing that Grace harbors a dangerous secret. Brookens Auditorium (UIS)

Hide and Seek [R] After her mother commits suicide, the daughter of David Callaway finds solace, then terror, in an imaginary friend. ShowPlace West

Hitch [PG-13] A female journalist investigates the unorthodox methods of a professional matchmaker. ShowPlace West, ShowPlace East

The Jacket [R] A Gulf War veteran is convinced he’s traveling through time in search of his fated lover. ShowPlace West

Man of the House [PG-13] A hardboiled Texas Ranger has to guard a group of dysfunctional cheerleaders who witnessed a murder. Parkway Pointe

Million Dollar Baby [PG-13] A boxing trainer who, with the prodding of his partner, agrees to train a promising female pugilist. ShowPlace East, ShowPlace West

Sideways [R] A failed writer/divorcé and his best friend, a faded actor, take a weeklong trip through California wine country, where they explore their failures and drink wine. Parkway Pointe

The Wedding Date [PG-13] To fool her ex-fiancé, Kat Ellis (Debra Messing) hires a male escort (Dermot Mulroney) to pose as her boyfriend at her sister’s wedding. ShowPlace West

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