For a good chunk of my week, I was literally dreading having to sit through The Game Plan. Not because of how bad the trailer makes the movie look (though it definitely does do that) or because of its syrupy family-oriented sentimentality, but rather because of how predictable the whole mess appeared to be. It’s one thing to sit through a bad—even horrible—movie, but it’s another matter entirely to sit through a movie where you can predict every single plot point just from having seen the trailer. (One day I’m going to try and write the review for one of these movies before I watch it and see just how close I can get.)
In the case of The Game Plan, we get a whopping 110 minutes of Disney-formula family comedy. The movie acts as one of those attempts at emasculating action stars—think Vin Diesel in The Pacifier (2005), Arnold Schwarzenegger in Kindergarten Cop (1990) or even Hulk Hogan in Mr. Nanny (1993)—in order to present the manly men to a broader audience. And while I personally couldn’t care less if these men want to be gelded on-screen, they could at least do it with some gusto. Instead, we get a bunch of toothless jokes centered on these guys’ inherent muscle-bound butchness juxtaposed with how unmanly being around little kids is—until they learn the error of their ways that is.
The Game Plan focuses on self-centered hotshot football player (and apparent Elvis fetishist) Joe Kingman (Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson), who finds out one day that he has a long-lost daughter, Peyton (Madison Pettis), from a previous marriage. Since Joe’s life revolves around football (to such a degree that he manages to fit football moves into his daughter’s ballet recital) and his playboy lifestyle, sudden fatherhood and its responsibilities lead to all sorts of theoretical wackiness. So if you like the prospect of seeing a bulldog with pink toenails in a tutu, or The Rock covered in bubble bath or wearing tights, or if you have a soft spot for movies with gags centering around a kid’s handiwork with a BeJeweler, then have I got a movie for you.
The film only has one slight surprise in it—and it only exists in order to explain why Peyton was apparently roaming Boston by herself in order to find her father. The rest of the movie goes exactly like you’d expect. Oh, except for the fact that not only does Joe learn to love his daughter, but he also learns to become a better football player in the bargain—surprise!
As far as the performances go, The Rock remains more of a personality than an actual actor, which works in his favor in this case since there isn’t much for him to do. He even works well with Pettis, despite her being a bit too precious for her own good. All of this, however, is negated whenever Kyra Sedgwick pops on-screen as Joe’s greedy, cold-hearted agent, in one of the most gratingly obnoxious performances of the year. Except, she does get the film’s sole flatulence joke, so I guess she has that to be proud of.
As far as family entertainment at the Cineplex goes, there isn’t much to choose from currently. That said, The Game Plan still isn’t much more than passable Disney-formula fare. Rated PG for some mild thematic elements.