For those who believe the world would be a poorer place if not for Kindergarten Cop and The Pacifier comes The Game Plan. Shudder.
The Rock -- or Dwayne Johnson, as it says on his Screen Actors Guild card -- stars as Joe Kingman, quarterback of the Boston Rebels (the world of The Game Plan is conspicuously NFL and Super Bowl free, with characters instead coveting a shot at the big "championship") and all-around self-absorbed, high-living bachelor. His lifestyle is lavish, the supermodels are frequent and his fans are plentiful. What could go wrong? Enter Madison Pettis as Peyton Kelly, an 8-year-old who arrives at his doorstep to inform him she's his daughter from a short-lived marriage. (Because this is Disney fare, one-night stands by athletes -- like the NFL -- simply do not exist.)
Thus begins the latest pairing in the esteemed cinematic tradition of muscle men teamed with precocious tykes.
However, unlike the last such Disney outing -- Vin Diesel's aforementioned Pacifier -- The Game Plan is strictly played for laughs. No terrorist threat or maddog killer on the loose to satiate the former wrestler's core fans -- although its gridiron setting is, presumably, intended to keep dads from dozing off. Good luck with that.
How and why Peyton has tracked poor Joe down are quibbles, really, and beside the point. She's here only -- along with everything else in The Game Plan -- to put Johnson through the farcical paces. His pet bulldog winds up in a tutu. His football gets bedazzled. Peyton puts too much bubble bath in his giant tub. She even gets a hold of the remote just as Joe and his teammates are watching the final moments of a basketball game (though not the NBA, of course) on his giant flatscreen. The silliness reaches its zenith during a performance of Swan Lake at Peyton's ballet school in which Johnson prances about as a tree. But, really, all he's tip-toeing around is how slight the material is.
Yet Johnson, to his credit, manages to carry much of the weight of The Game Plan on charm and good humour alone. It's funny that while the story's superfluous message -- Joe becomes a better player because fatherhood makes him think of someone other than himself -- pays lip-service to teamwork and selflessness, this is strictly a one-man show.
Johnson, as he's proven before, has all the stuff movie stars do.
Well, except a decent script.
(This film is rated G)
Sep. 23, 2007: The Rock sticks to The Game Plan
September 15, 2007: Classic Rock in a new role
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