|The Screening Room|
By the looks of it, "The Game Plan" looks like most of Disney's recent movies for kids. And it is, but unlike the remake of "The Shaggy Dog" or "Sky High," the football movie does a decent job of entertaining without being cloying.
"The Game Plan" is now on DVD.
The story isn't great, and the film looks like every other football film done in the last decade (slow motion photography, flashy edits, etc.). The football team is pretty cliché with goofy players around "The Rock." But what saves the film are the talents of Johnson and Pettis. Johnson doesn't play too far of what seems like his real personality, and that's what works. He seems like a fun and nice guy to be around, even though his character initially is egotistic. But I didn't buy it. "The Rock" is too nice of a guy to be a jerk. Pettis is charming as Peyton Kelly. Thankfully, she's in control of her role and never annoys. She's believable and doesn't act like a kid actor (think "Punky Brewster"). Some kid actors can rub the nerves the wrong way, as in "Look at me. Aren't I cute?" Pettis is a cute kid, but she doesn't overstay her welcome for the audience.
The movie has some funny scenes and I found myself laughing through them with my young daughter. Johnson's pet bulldog in the film has those kind of typical cutaways where he does something funny, like wearing a tutu. Pettis makes a mess of the kitchen, and Johnson has an allergic reaction to cookies Pettis made. Jokes like this are fairly predictable, but handled by Johnson and Pettis, they're charming enough.
There were a couple of surprises for me watching the movie. One was how long the movie seems. At a little under two hours, the movie takes too much time doing the serious "I want to be there for you" moments between Johnson and Pettis. Two, it surprised me that I was moved by some of the daddy/daughter moments in "The Game Plan." I wouldn't say moving like "E.T." sad, but moving in a way that it made good on the daddy/daughter relationship. This is where the movie takes a sudden turn towards the serious side, a flaw in so many comedies since the days of Robin Williams in "Good Morning, Vietnam" (1987). Why not just let the comedy flow? But Johnson and Pettis try not to make those scenes too painful to endure. Somehow, it works, however clunky.
Many moons ago, when "Father of the Bride"
came out, a family friend said that he couldn't watch the daughter get
married. In fact, he had a hard time watching the film. It got to him.
He was cop, a tough guy, and not easily moved. I thought it was funny
that he'd get choked up over a silly movie that didn't move me one bit
like "Father of the Bride." I'm sure that a punky young adult would find
"The Game Plan" just as predictable and unmoving as I found that 1991
Steve Martin flick. I guess you have to be a dad (or mom) to understand
these hidden emotions. If you're a daddy and have a daughter, and love
football, "The Game Plan" is a nice enough Saturday night diversion to
spend some bonding time together.