the studio gate

the backlot

the screening room
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 plot is pretty standard Disney for the modern age; a successful and selfish guy finds the true meaning of family through his child or children. "The Game Plan" has those elements and isn't shy about them. Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson is a hugely successful pro football quarterback for the fictional Boston Rebels. He's adored by fans, the media, and himself. One day, though, a daughter he never knew he had (Madison Pettis) shows up at his front door. Cute adventures ensue. Now it's up to "The Rock" to change his ways.

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.           

Bill Kallay

Special thanks to Click Communications

Photos: © Disney. All rights reserved.

Quick Glimpse


Light entertainment that actually has a bit of a heart

Director: Andy Finkman

Cast: Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, Madison Pettis, Kyra Sedgwick


Standard features



Picture: Very Good
Sound: Very Good

"The Rock" in a kid's film?  Expect to see more

Aspect Ratio (2.39:1)

Dolby Digital 5.1

January 22, 2008