Johnson does a decent job looking comfortable around the kid throughout the movie, and even the tender moments don’t seem too mushy. However, that can’t save it.
With his good looks, confidence and willingness to mock himself and his career, Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson is hard to dislike. Not that his charm should excuse him from The Game Plan, the latest in a long line of successful-adult-gets-a-surprise-kid-and-at-first-they-resent-the-kid-and-then-grow-to-love-them movies. These types of roles are usually seen later on in a soon to be washed-up actor’s career (see Adam Sandler, Kate Hudson, Catherine Zeta-Jones, et al. for examples). Johnson, however, is boldly taking on this disaster relatively early in his career.
Johnson stars as Joe "The King" Kingman, star quarterback of the Boston Rebels. He is at the top of his game, is adored by fans and has more money than he knows what to do with. He is also egotistical, solipsistic and self-obsessed, constantly reminding himself and others how good he is. Enter the daughter he never knew he had, Peyton (Madison Pettis), from a brief marriage eight years ago. Peyton has sought Joe out and is determined to become close to him.
Quickly, the two become strangely comfortable with one another as Peyton has an immediate effect on Joe’s life, much to the chagrin of his money-obsessed agent, Stella (Kyra Sedgwick). Joe is forced to bring Peyton to practice and restaurant openings, you know, good places for a kid to be. While Peyton seems to be nothing but sweet and adorable, she has a secret of her own that she is hiding from Joe.
Johnson does a decent job looking comfortable around the kid throughout the movie, and even the tender moments don’t seem too mushy. However, that can’t save it. Writers Nichole Millard and Kathryn Price attempt to pull off two endings to the movie, either of which would have been sufficient, but together they make the movie sluggish and too long by 30 minutes.
Director Andy Fickman clearly doesn’t feel comfortable filming the football sequences, so he constantly falls back on slow motion camera work in an attempt to heighten the excitement. Fickman also encourages the actors to go over the top with their reactions and emotions in an attempt at humor that usually falls flat.
One redeeming quality is Pettis in her big-screen debut. If it weren’t for her giant, pathetic brown eyes, Peyton could only be seen as a conniving and manipulative little girl. But with the sweet innocence Pettis exudes, all of that is brushed aside with a resounding "Aw."
Kids will like the movie because it has plenty of silly and funny moments; parents might start to squirm after about 45 minutes. In the movie, The King’s motto is "Never say no." Well, in the case of The Game Plan saying no is absolutely acceptable. | Matthew F. Newlin