The Game Plan
For an actor being type cast is a two edge sword. Being associated with a certain type of role does usually ensure the actor a steady stream of work but more often than not it is only for variations of the same old role. One actor who was ripe for type casting is Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson. As a former World Wrestling Federation star it was only natural for him to break into movies with roles that highlight his massive physical attributes. With flicks like ‘The Scorpion King’ and later other big guy roles like ‘Doom’ and ‘The Rundown’, Mr. Johnson was creating a nice career as the go to actor for action roles. He obviously wants to explore other aspects of his new found craft. Fortunately The Rock had an excellent role model to guide his career in a new direction, Arnold Schwarzenegger. Schwarzenegger started his career almost exactly like The Rock. He had roles that required little more than beating people up, looking mean and being large. He broke away from the mold by taking on an unexpected genre, comedy. One of the reasons Schwarzenegger is so popular is he mixes in a funny film with the action roles. Now that he is governor of California the time is right for Johnson to use the same methods to propel his career. His latest film to hit DVD is ‘The Game Plan’ and as a comedy it is a start in the right direction.
The reason why this athletes like Schwarzenegger or Johnson work so well in comedies is no one expects them to be funny. Johnson must have studied films like ‘Kindergarten Cop’ and ‘Twins’ to prepare for ‘The Game Plan’, He does not copy Schwarzenegger in his performance but does use those roles as a guide here, adapting it to his own personality. Now the film is far from perfect. There are wholes in the plot you could drive a truck through and many aspects of the flick require more than the usual amount of suspension of belief. The bottom line is while watching the film you don’t care, you are laughing. Yes, you have seen this plot many times before and no doubt will see it again; an adult happy living alone is suddenly a parent of a precocious child. Once again following Schwarzenegger here you just need a big guy with an innate sense of humor and put him in a scene with an adorable kid and in this case a bulldog and you have a great basis for something funny to happen. A solid story doesn’t hurt with a comedy but in reality it is not a requirement. This is a film that is silly by design full of sight gags, slap-stick and fish out of water jokes. After a hard day at work you may not be in the mood for a thinking comedy, you just want to sit back and have a good time. This is what you get here, some laughs; no thought required. It is also a movie that is good for the whole family. Not only is it rated a mild ‘PG’ but it is from the leading studio for family fun, Disney.
For Joe Kingman (Dwayne Johnson) life is good. He is a hugely successful quarterback for the Boston Rebels football team. They are about to go into the championship largely due to his leadership and prowess on the field. His career pays well allowing Joe to maintain a lush bachelor apartment decorated with numerous trophies, awards and his prized collection of Elvis memorabilia. The only one he needs to share that space on a permanent basis his is trusty bulldog Spike. On the field the fans love him when he takes the ball all the way scoring the wining touchdown. In his personal life Joe is quite the ladies man; rarely more than a few feet away from the proverbial bevy of beautiful and willing women. He even keeps a closet full of Chanel gift bags for that special lady or two. Joe is also a practical joker, always ready with a gag at the expense of a friend or teammate. With all of this success it is little wonder that Joe is completely self-adsorbed. Yes, life is good, really good until an event moves Joe’s world off its axis. One night the doorman rings up to announce a young lady named Peyton Kelly (Madison Pettis) wants to come up. Joe doesn’t remember any girls by that name but tells the doorman to let her up anyway. To his shock Peyton is an eight year old girl who informs Joe that he is her father. It turns out that eight years ago Joe was briefly married to Sara Kelly who now has sent Peyton along with a note stating she needs him to watch her for a month. Joe can think of only one thing to do, call his agent Stella (Kyra Sedgwick) who happens to be as self-centered as Joe. The story rapidly settles in to Peyton having more common sense than Joe and his sports oriented solutions to the little problems that natural come up. For example Peyton refuse to get in Joe’s two seated sports car since if there was an accident the air bag could harm her. His solution is to opens the trunk, pull out a helmet and jam it over her little head.
Family entertainment doesn’t have to be as silly as this flick is but in this case the goofiness works. Andy Fickman is no stranger to the silly when it comes to directing. He was behind the equally foolish ‘She’s the Man’ and the very strange but still fun musical remake of ‘Reefer Madness’. He knows how to pace a film like this and that goes a long way to helping the film work. He sets up the joke or situation and hits you with the joke wasting no time to repeat the process. There are just enough tender moments to allow the story to take the predicable course of Joe bonding with Peyton. This is obviously a Disney flick as all the product placement will tell you. For some reason every show that Peyton watches is one of the Disney Channels ‘tween line up.
Many have tried to make the transition from the big muscle guy to family film star but few have made it. Johnson is a natural for this kind of film, dear I say even more than his aptitude for action flicks. There is something about him that seems extremely likeable. Women may love the big frame but for the guys he seems to the type you would want to hang out with. Johnson not only has this charisma but for a man so developed he certain can handle the finer points of physical humor. He can take a prat-fall with the best of them. He also does the near impossible, remain funny in scenes containing children and animals. Kyra Sedgwick handles her part with the kind of humor that comes out of hating her character. Stella is so conceited and self serving that you enjoy watching things go bad for her. Of course you need a super adorable child actress for this role and fortunately Madison Pettis fits the bill perfectly. She delivers her lines with style. Her character knows she is in many ways smarter than her dad but she never becomes condescending. She is a natural and adds much to the film.
Of course the video and audio here are near reference quality. The film can be had in either Pan & Scan (please don’t), DVD or Blu-ray. What really make this disc an excellent purchase for your family film collection are the extras. Typical of a Disney family DVD they are innovative and funny. The main menu is a picture of Joe’s apartment with different items selecting the features. Under Bonus features there are several selections all with a sporty twist. For example almost every major release has a blooper reel. With the one here it is presented in a sports blooper format narrated by Marv Albert. The making of featurette is called "Drafting the Game Plan’ and watching Johnson practicing ballet in a room filled with little girls is worth it. Then there is ‘ESPN’s Sports Center: The Rock Learns to Play QB’ which covers how Johnson was taught to look like a real quarterback. Last there is a featurette where the cast in character talk about the incredible career of Joe Kingman. In all this film holds together and will give the whole family an entertaining evening.