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It won’t be long before Dwayne Johnson runs for Governor of a large state. The actor formerly known as “The Rock” has followed the Arnold Schwarzenegger career path pretty closely thus far. After making a name for himself in the faux-sport of wrestling, Johnson generated some decent notices in action movies like The Scorpion King and The Rundown. He then decided he needed to show some family-friendly comedic chops and make his Kindergarten Cop.
Putting unrealistic characters in unlikely situations is a hallmark of recent Disney live-action movies. In The Game Plan, Dwayne Johnson plays Joe “The King” Kingman, superstar bachelor quarterback of the Boston Rebels, a fictional pro football team. Living the high life in an immaculate, gadget-heavy condo with a blonde model girlfriend, and a me-first attitude about everything, Joe is the classic Disney screwed-up priorities stereotype. As often happens in Disney movies with these types of characters (but never in real life), Joe is surprised one day with the unannounced arrival of a daughter he didn’t know existed. Peyton (Madison Pettis), the eight-year-old girl Joe sired right before his marriage to Karen Kelly (Paige Turco) went kaput, shows up with a suitcase full of ballerina costumes and sequins. You know before the way-too-long 110 minutes of movie run out, Joe is going to be a changed man and learn a lesson about “what’s important in life.”
After Joe realizes that he can’t get rid of Peyton (her mom is in Africa for a month), he grudgingly brings her along to places like football practice. This is much to the chagrin of Joe’s hard charging agent, Stella (Kyra Sedgwick), who wants Joe to focus on material pursuits. Joe’s giant teammates must act like they’ve never been around a child before and before long defensive lineman are helping Peyton choose the color of her dolly dresses. Morris Chestnut, as Travis Sanders, is the only person in the locker room, or the movie really, who acts in a normal and realistic manner. Peyton also makes a mess of Joe’s perfect home by doing things that even five year-olds know not to do in any non-Disney movie reality, like turning on the blender with no lid or pouring all the bubble bath into the tub and leaving (paging Bobby Brady!)
Through all this, Johnson shows an almost amazing amount of charisma and charm that save the movie from descending into a Yours, Mine, and Ours-like hell. He does have some decent comic timing even when director Andy Fickman throws him into idiotic situations like wearing a unitard and dancing with Peyton’s ballet teacher (Roselyn Sanchez), or covering him with bubbles after the tub disaster. Johnson’s work almost makes-up for weak performances by Pettis, who is saddled with screenwriters Nichole Millard and Kathryn Price’s adult-sounding dialogue, and Sedgwick, who overacts more here than she does on The Closer
Lack of believability or originality aside, this is a movie aimed straight at kids. It doesn’t make the same mistake other un-original comedies like Mr. Woodcock and Sydney White made by trying to grab a few older kids with innuendos and mild language; everything is strictly “G” rated, even though it carries a “PG” rating. Joe even goes out of his way to explain how he and his ex-wife were still technically married when they conceived Peyton. Most kids raised on the Disney Channel will feel very comfortable with the pace and tone of the film and their parents will get a few smiles in despite the predictable plot and jokes.
Never underestimate the ability of an appealing performer to carry even the stalest material. Dwayne Johnson should have a future in comedy if he can hook up with a better director and less derivative script. Until then, you can look at The Game Plan as just a stepping stone on his lengthy road to the Rhode Island governor’s mansion.
Although The Game Plan isn’t anything worth writing home about as a movie, the DVD is not bad if you have kids in your household. The movie itself will appeal more to young children than teens or adults and they will probably get some enjoyment out of the extras, also. As is usual with Disney DVD’s, the picture and sound quality is very good.
The extras begin with almost 16 minutes of deleted scenes. There are nine unique scenes and include an alternate beginning where the outcome of the first game is different. All scenes have an optional introduction by director Andy Fickman, which should be mandatory on all DVDs as it is the only way to know where deleted scenes were intended to go in the context of the finished movie. Of the 16 minutes total, about a third of that time is for one scene that includes more footage of the fairly elaborate ballet that Joe takes part in with Peyton’s ballet class.
A fairly long behind-the-scenes featurette called “Drafting the Game Plan” is included. While it doesn’t often stray from what you usually see in this type of extra, they do spend quite a bit of time on the football action, which would be of interest to sports movie fans. There is also discussion of how Dwayne Johnson tore his Achilles tendon and filming had to shut down for awhile. The featurette lasts for 20 minutes and all of the actors and behind the scenes people chime in about each other.
The typical gag/blooper reel is given a special sports touch by having sportscaster Marv Albert (he of the “biting” incident) narrate the bloopers as though they were sports highlights. Since the bloopers are pretty brief on their own, Albert’s comments pad things out a little and help differentiate it from other gag reels out there.
Disney tries to create a little corporate synergy by pairing with its subsidiary, ESPN, for the final two content extras. The first, called “The Rock Learns to Play QB” was a segment on ESPN Sportscenter before the movie came out. It features ESPN’s rock bottom worst football analyst, Sean Salisbury, interviewing Dwayne Johnson about how he learned the moves to play a realistic quarterback in the movie. The actual answer is that he used three stunt doubles but that doesn’t seem to make it into the interview. The other extra is called “The King in Search of a Ring.” It’s hosted by ESPN anchor Stuart Scott (boo-ya) and covers the fictional Joe Kingman as if he were a real person. All the other actors talk about Joe like he’s a real guy and Scott interviews Johnson in the character of Joe Kingman. It’s mostly embarassing, but kids may get a kick out of it and some of the interview was used in the movie when Joe watches himself on television.
Other than a few previews for other Disney DVDs, the only remaining extra is a little control panel on the menu that lets you change the lighting scheme on the main menu and opens a game where you can “redecorate” Joe’s apartment by adding sequins and other Peyton-like touches. This is something that will only appeal to young girls.
All the extras add up to approximately an additional hour of material. This isn’t bad amount considering it’s a fairly light-weight family film. As is the case with the movie itself, there are only a few areas of interest to adults but kids will enjoy it a little more. This disc will not push any of the classic Disney live action movies out of the top of your collection, but your kids might keep it in heavy rotation for a week or two.
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