Alibi V.16 No.39 • Sept 27-Oct 3, 2007 

Film Review

The Game Plan

Cute kids and quarterback sacks add up to a career killer

“  Eh? Eh?   Chair. Butt. Funny stuff, huh?”
Eh? Eh? Chair. Butt. Funny stuff, huh?”

The Game Plan

Directed by Andy Fickman

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

Wrestlin' thespian Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson could have had a career in film. He's a good-looking fellow. He's charismatic. There's no glaring indication so far that he can't act. With last gen action stars like Sylvester Stallone, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Bruce Willis collecting social security, the world needs a new slab of beef to shoot bad guys. The Rock could have been that slab. But, after a handful of mid-range actioners (Doom, Walking Tall, The Rundown), the former WWE star has jumped the shark, skipping big-budget franchise flicks and leaping directly into the sort of cutesy Disney family films that normally signal the end of an actor's career. (See Steve Martin, Eddie Murphy, Robin Williams and—shudder—Cuba Gooding, Jr. for reference). Of course, if you loved Vin Diesel (remember him?) in The Pacifier, then The Game Plan is just the thing to make you stand up and cheer.

In The Game Plan, The Rock tackles the role of Joe Kingman, a pro football quarterback who's rich, famous and sleeps with supermodels. Naturally, that means he's lonely and deeply unhappy. In movies, anyone who's rich, famous and sleeps with supermodels is lonely and deeply unhappy. (Yeah, right.) On the eve of the Championship playoffs, what fresh wackiness should be dropped unceremoniously on the doorstep of his lush bachelor pad but the adorable 8-year-old daughter he never knew he had?

Yes, The Game Plan manages to load the blender up with the hoariest of sports movie clichés and the most overused of “selfish adult has his/her heart melted by cute kid” stories. There really is no need to go into the details of the plot. You can pretty much figure them out for yourself, so I'll just go all spoiler on you and cut to the final two lines of dialogue by way of summary. She: “Daddy, you won the championship!” He: “Honey, I won much more than that.” Ick.

If your taste runs to the most treacle-filled of family comedies, The Game Plan has got your number. The Rock's dimpled hellspawn Peyton (Madison Pettis, a former moppet on “Barney & Friends,” for God's sake) is so cute and precocious she could have been a Cosby kid. The Rock, meanwhile, swallows every bit of his pride, prancing around in a tutu just to get some laughs. It's sad, really. The film is even reduced to that now-ubiquitous last-minute Hail Mary of comedy desperation: having the entire cast sing a silly pop song over the end credits. Adults hoping to distract themselves with some hard-crunching football action should note that the film looks like it was written and directed by people whose only knowledge of the sport came from watching inspirational Pepsi commercials.

There are those, of course, who will defend The Game Plan by saying, “Hey, it's for kids, cut it a little slack, you big meanie.” Granted, highly sheltered 6-year-olds will giggle occasionally, and adults who collect Anne Geddes calendars will say “awww” every once in a while. But just because a film is aimed at kids doesn't mean it has to suck. Nobody watches The Wizard of Oz or Snow White and the Seven Dwarves and says, “Man, that was a lousy film—but it's for kids, you gotta cut it a little slack.” Good films are good, bad films are bad. And if you can't tell the difference, you deserve to watch Daddy Day Camp for the rest of your life.