''I'm a big life's-too-short guy,'' says director Adam Shankman. ''I will not work with people I think I'm going to have a hard time with.'' So imagine Shankman's reaction when he heard the words Vin Diesel family comedy. ''When I read it, itmade perfect sense,'' avers Shankman. But even for the man who made Queen Latifah and Steve Martin a viable screen pairing in 2003's Bringing Down the House it sounds like a tall order: A Navy SEAL assigned to protect a suburban family becomes a nurturing father figure. ''I think people feel like Vin is letting them all in now, and he's not pushing anybody away,'' says Shankman of his leading man. ''They love seeing him be self-effacing.''
''I don't think I'm motivated by what people say. I've gotta be motivated by what inspires me,'' says Diesel, who says this film isn't an attempt to rehabilitate his prickly image he just wanted to make a flick his young nieces and nephews could watch. ''I don't kill anybody in this movie,'' he says proudly. ''Even in a movie that's rated PG-13, like The Chronicles of Riddick, you're not going to convince the world that it's safe for a grade-school kid.''