The Game Plan

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This review was written for the theatrical release of "The Game Plan." 

"The Game Plan" is a throwback to the days when Disney would recruit second- and third-tier stars to stroll through indifferently written, modestly produced comic fluff that served as family entertainment. In today's market, "Game Plan" looks like a better fit for the Disney Channel than the local multiplex.

Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson plays a bachelor, a self-centered, party-hearty star quarterback of a Boston pro football team, who is suddenly and rather incredibly confronted with an 8-year-old daughter he never knew existed. The film relies on the same comic incongruity that propelled the Arnold Schwarzenegger vehicle "Kindergarten Cop," where a muscle-bound macho man encounters a child he can't intimidate, but the lame contrivances of most sequences cause the comedy to fall flat.

"Game Plan" should see moderate boxoffice returns for a week or so until fading into the more comfortable environment of Disney home entertainment.

There is less of a story here than a series of gag situations where Joe "The King" Kingman (Johnson), football star and Elvis fan, meets such challenges as bedtime stories, dolls, an outing to a kiddie park and ballet lessons with his daughter. The film studiously avoids tackling any of the real challenges that would confront an instant parent. Joe's daughter, Peyton, played engagingly but with a heavy dose of sweetness by Madison Pettis, pretty much accepts her dad, warts and all. Meanwhile, Joe is nothing like real-life NFL or NBA head cases that dominate the crime blotter as much as they do the sports pages. Basically, he's as harmless as his bulldog Spike. What, you didn't think the Disney folks wouldn't throw in a cute mutt to increase the saccharine level?

Such is the struggle to create any sort of conflict or story line that the film's writers -- Nichole Millard, Kathryn Price and Audrey Wells -- must resort to food allergies twice in the movie. An allergy to cinnamon causes tough-guy Joe to speak in a lisp. Then a nut allergy causes Joe to rush Peyton to the hospital for a second-act climax.

The role of Joe has been written down to the Rock's skill sets, so only the most basic kinds of emotion and comic befuddlement are expressed. The Rock does display flashes of humor and charm, but much of the heavy lifting, so to speak, falls to Pettis.

Supporting characters are one-trick ponies. Kyra Sedgwick plays Joe's hardened and soulless agent. When her client is carried off the field in a stretcher, her only concern is how he will film a fast-food commercial after the game. Morris Chestnut is the wide receiver Joe never throws to because he loves to score on quarterback keepers. Until, of course, the movie's climax. Roselyn Sanchez is Peyton's pretty ballet teacher who must teach Joe that despite those tights and tutus, ballet is very athletic.

Andy Fickman supplies routine direction in a production that keeps expenses down by showing scant football action and portraying most of the Boston victories in quick shots of jocks celebrating in a locker room.

THE GAME PLAN
Buena Vista Pictures
Walt Disney Pictures presents a Mayhem Pictures production
Credits:
Director: Andy Fickman
Screenwriters: Nichole Millard, Kathryn Price
Story by: Nichole Millard, Kathryn Price, Audrey Wells
Producers: Gordon Gray, Mark Ciardi
Executive producer: Richard Luke Rothschild
Director of photography: Greg Gardiner
Production designer: David J. Bomba
Music: Nathan Wang
Costume designer: Genevieve Tyrrell
Editor: Michael Jablow
Cast:
Joe Kingman: Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson
Peyton Kelly
Madison Pettis
Stella Peck: Kyra Sedgwick
Monique: Roselyn Sanchez
Travis: Morris Chestnut
Kyle: Hayes MacArthur
Jamal: Brian White
Clarence Monroe: Jamal Duff
Running time -- 110 minutes
MPAA rating: PG

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