The Game Plan (2007) / Comedy-Family
MPAA Rated: PG for thematic elements
Running time: 110 min.
Cast: Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, Madison Pettis, Roselyn Sanchez, Kyra Sedgwick, Paige Turco, Morris Chestnut, Hayes MacArthur, Brian White, Jamal Duff
Cameos: Gordon Clapp, Marv Albert, Jim Gray, Struart Scott, Boomer Esiason
Director: Andy Fickman
Screenplay: Nichole Millard, Kathryn Price
Like other tough guys who've come before, Dwayne Johnson (Gridiron Gang, Doom) dabbles in the family film market in order to broaden his appeal to the mainstream. It worked for Arnie in Kindergarten Cop, but it didn't for Vin Diesel in The Pacifier or Hulk Hogan in Mr. Nanny and Santa with Muscles. I had been skeptical about The Game Plan's ability to work for Johnson, who, despite a natural charisma, has had a hard time shedding his image as the pro wrestler, The Rock. After seeing the finished product (and this so very much is a product), I'll give him the lion's share of credit as to why The Game Plan manages to work at all. If not for an ingratiating performance done with humor and grace, this would probably be just another wholly predictable, lackluster Disney family film. Not that it isn't that, but Johnson's presence delivers the appeal above and beyond the tired story.
The Rock plays future Hall of Fame quarterback Joe Kingman, known for his egotism and strive to be the best he can be, if only to bask continuously in the public spotlight. There's only one thing missing in his great career, and that's a championship. At least he thinks that is all that is missing, until he receives a surprise visit from a young girl (Pettis, "Cory in the House") claiming to be his daughter born after the marriage between Joe and her mother dissolved. She plans on staying with him for a month or so while her mother is away, which Joe eventually reluctantly accepts, if she can manage to stay out of his way and let him concentrate on the season at hand. Joe soon discovers that neglecting his daughter's needs will prove a disaster, not only to her, but also to his public image. Caught between decisions involving his career and his daughter, Joe must soon make a choice as to what is most important in his life.
The Game Plan lives up to its name by delivering exactly what the makers of it set out to do. The ultimate goal is two-fold: package a winning family film built around The Rock that will increase his fan base, while also giving us a movie that crosses over demographics such that dads and sons, mothers and daughters, and even just the kids or adults alone can sit through the movie and be engaged enough to follow along entertained. If there's a reason I'm giving this film a passing grade, it is merely because of this: it delivers the goods promised, and even though it takes predictable turns, it offers enough choice smaller surprises to overcome its inherent familiarity.
The Game Plan has one mode, and that is to play everything as cute as possible. The kid is cute, the dog is cute, the ballet class is cute, and even the football team is cute. Your tolerance or attraction to the high level of cuteness will be the predominant factor of your enjoyment of this Disney concoction, which, with the exception of one split-second flatulence punctuation, is devoid of any sort of potty humor geared toward easy laughs for the kids. Nevertheless, the younger you are, the more likely you are to enjoy this film that adheres religiously to the playbook, with only the talent of the players able to carry the tried and true formula to success.
©2007 Vince Leo