A bit more cutesy than" Kindergarten Cop, "but more family-friendly, and Vin Diesel shows his versatility.7/10
In brief: "A bit more cutesy than "Kindergarten Cop," but more family-friendly, and Vin Diesel shows his versatility."
I don't usually attend screenings for kids' movies, but when I first found out about this film, I was very curious to see how Vin Diesel would do in a kid's film. I've liked Vin Diesel ever since "Pitch Black", and while some may dismiss him as a muscle-bound action workhorse, I've long thought that there was more to him lurking behind that facade, and remembering the skepticism that greeted Arnold Schwarzenegger's attempts at comedyskepticism that was greeted with what I thought were successful turns in "Twins" and "Kindergarten Cop", I was curious to see how successfully Diesel would play against type.
The result is a family film more cutesy and farcical than "Kindergarten Cop", (the model my mind kept going back to for comparison), with an unfortunately greater focus on infant waste products, but greater conflict between Diesel and his young charges, which lends itself to more heartwarming moments of rapport-building.
Diesel plays Lt. Shane Wolfe, a Navy SEAL assigned to protect the five children of a top scientist (Tate Donovan), and find a hidden computer program that may be secreted in his house while their mother (Faith Ford) and Wolfe's C.O. journey to Zurich to try and find the right code word for the scientist's safety deposit box. A simple assignment, it seems, except these kids have issues. Eldest son Seth is defiant, suffers bullying from fellow students and the school's V.P., and is negligent in his wrestling team responsibilities. Oldest daughter Zoe ("American Dreams"'s Brittany Snow) is truant in her Driver's Ed class, and willfully disobedient. The problems of the youngest three, Lulu, Peter, and Tyler, seem simpler, but are no less mountainous for Wolfe, who first tries addressing these problems with the roughshod military discipline he's accustomed to, but soon finds himself changing tactics by listening to these kids' problems, and helping them out more as a parent than a military bodyguard. Whereas Schwarzenegger's character was instantly ingratiated with the object of his protection in "Kindergarten Cop" by becoming friends and eventually boyfriend to his mom, and merely had to win his class' attention, here Wolfe has the more difficult task of cutting through the layers of resentment in a pair of teenagers, taking care of an infant and two young children, and protecting them from assassins that come crashing through windows, which lends itself to both some genuinely warm moments when he opens up to Seth and Zoe, and some surprisingly interesting but funny action sequences that seem evocative of Jackie Chan, with a really nice setup-and-payoff when Wolfe realizes the secret to getting to the computer program.
This is obviously a film geared more for the kids, as evidenced by the kooky overacting, the silly Swiss stereotypes (which I didn't even realized existed), and the goofy actions on the part of the bad guys, such as the revelation, for example, that squirting a juice box into a bad guy's face is akin to spraying it with acid (and somehow keeps the bad guy from falling backward in response), but while that may be a let-down to the older folk, the parents will probably be pleased, since I recall some parents being upset with the more adult scenes in "Kindergarten Cop".
The bottom line is, bring the kids to see it, but if unless you're a die-hard Diesel fan, and want to see anything he does, it probably won't be your cup of tea if you're past grade school.