Reviewed by

Christopher Armstead

So I’m in the process of collecting a DVD of every football movie ever made, because I’m a big football fan and I love football movies.  One would think that Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson’s latest vehicle from those folks out at Disney Studios, ‘The Game Plan’, would be an ideal candidate for this collection once it makes its way to DVD.  Heck, ‘Air Bud’ will even be in my collective eventually, but no, ‘The Game Plan’ will not be in my Football Movie Collection when it is released to the general public.  Not because it’s a bad movie as ‘The Game Plan’ is completely harmless, adequate, albeit derivative entertainment, but because ‘The Game Plan’ is more of a classical ballet movie than a football movie.  The staged football scenes in this film looked just like that, staged.  Unlike The Rock’s ‘Gridiron Gang’ which probably had some of the most authentic, hardest hitting football scenes I’ve seen since probably ‘Any Given Sunday’, minus the Monday Night Football Gloss, but ‘The Game Plan’ football scenes were really weak, which is probably why there were so few of them.  However the ballet scenes were very well captured, electric, emotional and any other adjective you can use to describe a ballet scene.  But who’s going to want see a movie called ‘The Plie Plan’?  I know I wouldn’t.

As far as ‘The Game Plan’ is concerned, throw every conceivable cliché you can possibly think of in a blender, mix it on high and pour it over loads of forced sentimentality and you have yourself a movie.  Johnson plays super selfish self-centered pro quarterback Joe Kingman who lives in apartment furnished with pictures of himself, watches repeats of interviews with himself, and speaks of himself in the third person.  Life couldn’t be any better for the super fit Quarterback (The Rock was shirtless or sleeveless throughout most of the movie) as his life is filled with adulation

from fans, nights with the lovely ladies, the respect of his teammates and loads of endorsements as secured by his ruthless agent Stella (Kyra Sedwick).  Things take a turn for the sweeter for Joe, though he’s not convinced of this yet, when he gets a surprise visit from an 8-year-old little cutie named Peyton (Madison Pettis) who claims to be his daughter from his brief fist marriage (It’s a Disney joint so we very well couldn’t have an illegitimate child floating around).

You can pretty much finish the screenplay yourself from here as Joe doesn’t understand the kid, the kid doesn’t understand Joe, and funny stuff happens because they don’t understand each other.  Joe has to learn ballet, the kid has to learn about football and funny stuff happens because Joe has to learn ballet.  The football players laugh at Joe with the kid, then the football players fall in love with the kid, the kid falls in love with the football players and funny stuff happens because they all love each other.  They even tossed in a bit of a love interest with Petyon’s ballet teacher played by the always fetching Rosalyn Sanchez.  Of course there are scenes when all the love is interrupted and Joe finds his inner father and what not and the love is rejoined.  Naturally, what good is a sports movie, even a ballet movie masquerading as a sports movie, if it doesn’t come down to a last play with the clock ticking down and the championship on the line?  Cue the string section please.

Speaking of strings, ‘The Game Plan’ was a great day for every violinist, cellist and bass violist looking for a job that week as the strings were almost oppressive in director Andy Frickman’s attempts to wring out every little bit of sentimentality that this thing had to offer.  The film did start out rather weakly with the jokes pretty much missing the mark and had me worrying that we may have a candidate to take over the mantle of Worst Football Movie Ever from Adam Sandler’s remake of ‘The Longest Yard’, but the movie just needed a little time to get its players in place and its narrative jump started so the cliché’s could ride on autopolit.  And of course, it’s not a football movie anyway.  I like The Rock in most of the films he pops up in as his naturally engaging personality pushes through his acting inexperience, and he doesn’t disappoint here as plays the perfect foil to super cute Madison Pettis, who I’m sure the producers had a heck of a nationwide search trying to find a kid that halfway looked like The Rock, could act, dance and have some comic timing.  Plus for those who like this kind of thing, the first time Dwayne took off his shirt the lady behind me let out one of those ‘mmm, mmm, mmm’ type comments, and when actor Brian White first showed himself on screen the young lady sitting next to her lost the ability to breathe as she was hyperventilating in my ear.  An emergency tracheotomy was successfully performed.  Sadly no such reaction was given to actor Morris Chestnut, now some sixteen years removed from ‘Boyz in the Hood’ when he was the guy taking the ladies breaths away.  He will have to take solace with the fact that he was the best actor on the set.

Innocuously harmless entertainment, ‘The Game Plan’ is a decent, family safe, completely derivative, cliché ridden movie without an ounce of original thought, but does have some rather charming actors being rather charming.  If you have a young daughter, I’m thinking she may leave the theater thinking that this is the best movie ever made, thus making you a hero in her eyes for at least a day and a half.

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