Directed by Andy Fickman
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 anamorphic
Running Time: 110 minutes
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1 English, French, Spanish
Subtitles: SDH, French, Spanish
MSRP: $ 29.99
Release Date: January 22, 2008
Review Date: January 15, 2008
A formulaic, predictable comedy without an ounce of originality in its head, The Game Plan wastes some major talents in a standard scenario that’s been around for a long time. Find a hyper-successful adult completely immersed in his job and without any interests except himself and drop a child into his life, stir in the farce elements and sentimentality carefully, and you have the makings of a hit family comedy. It certainly worked for Baby Boom (and we won‘t even go into the three versions of Little Miss Marker). Make the dedicated adult a macho action-hero type who‘s going to have to deal with decidedly non-macho stuff (Arnold Schwarzenegger in Kindergarten Cop, Vin Diesel in The Pacifier, to name two), and the formula should be even more successful.
Superstar quarterback Joe Kingman (Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson) has a fancy high-tech apartment, the ladies lined up at his beckon call, and more ESPN coverage than he could watch in two lifetimes. Enter Peyton (Madison Pettis), his heretofore unknown daughter from a brief early marriage who is dumped on his doorstep allegedly by the mother who’s off bringing water to the dying in Africa. Not wishing to garner bad publicity, Joe’s stuck with the child for a month right at the beginning of the football playoffs. Peyton, of course, is not one to sit huddled in a corner being quiet, and before long, she has completely disrupted Dad’s existence all the while winning the hearts of his teammates and the public at large through a series of contrived set-ups that literally blackmails her father into making the best of the situation.
Contrived is the operative word here as The Game Plan's script by Nichole Millard and Kathryn Price is so riddled with unconvincing plot machinations loaded down with inconsistencies and nonsense that they defy description and warrant no elaboration. The film is blessed with a leading star whose natural charisma, athletic prowess, and spirit of fun carries the viewer over such plot potholes, and Johnson is supported by some talented actors he has marvelous camaraderie with. Still, without his eager-to-please performance (as an Elvis fanatic, he even warbles a bit of “Are You Lonesome Tonight?”) and an expensive production, the movie wouldn’t have much to offer.
Certainly the child actress chosen to play Peyton - Madison Pettis - is only barely tolerable. It isn’t her fault that she’s made into a manipulative schemer in order to get her way (was there no other way to get his attention and support?), and a better director could have stopped her tendency to glance at the camera during takes to get feedback. (Amazing that those scenes were left in the finished picture.) Sadly, though, I found her without much natural acting ability (she can do graceful splits in ballet class) and rather annoying rather than charming.
In other roles, the multi-talented Kyra Sedgwick only gets to play one note as Joe’s grasping sports agent. His football teammates are straight from the stereotype movie playbook with the airhead (Hayes Macarthur), the family man (Morris Chestnut), and the animal-who’s-all-marshmallow (Jamal Duff). From the moment he steps into his daughter’s ballet class, it’s obvious (a) the unmarried teacher (Roselyn Sanchez) will become his love interest, and (b) the football player will become a ballet dancer for his daughter’s recital. And with this being a PG-rated comedy, the locker room scenes are the quietest and most dignified ones imaginable.
Director Andy Fickman does handle one sequence with a lyrical panache: a counterpoint sequence in which the football team scrimmages while Peyton’s ballet troupe goes through its exercises. It’s well filmed, edited, and scored, quite a notch above much of the film’s predictable situations. There are a few scattered laughs in the movie (at 110 minutes, it’s at least 15 minutes too long; cutting that elaborate ballet performance sequence would have been a start), and the cast is attractive, but The Game Plan is bush league at best.
The film’s 2.35:1 aspect ratio is delivered in an above average anamorphic transfer. Colors are nicely saturated, and flesh tones for the most part are natural except in one nightclub scene where everyone’s skin goes pasty due to the lighting. Blacks are quite inky with very good shadow detail. Close-ups have nice sharpness, but medium and long shots suffer from some softness and occasional smearing. The film has been divided into 20 chapters.
The Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track is directed mostly to the front channels though the rears are used quite a bit for music and the occasional ambient sound. Still, the rear channels and the LFE channel aren’t exploited for maximum effectiveness, especially during the football game sequences.
Nine deleted scenes are presented in anamorphic widescreen and can be watched together or individually and with director introductions turned on or off. The nine scenes run a total of 21 minutes, almost 10 of which is the complete version of the ballet from the film.
A blooper reel is narrated by ESPN announcer Marv Albert, is in anamorphic widescreen, and runs 3 minutes.
“Drafting The Game Plan” is a mostly puffy 20-minute making of documentary featuring comments from the film’s director, producers, and stars. The two most interesting parts of the documentary discuss the Achilles tendon injury that took Johnson out of filming and necessitated stunt doubles to do the heavy football action for him once filming resumed. The featurette also goes into the preparation of all the actors who took part in the ballet performance. It’s presented in anamorphic widescreen.
“ESPN SportsCenter Exclusive: The King in Search of a Ring” is the entire 5 minute ESPN Stuart Scott sequence excerpted in the film itself with other ESPN commentators talking about the fictional Joe Kingman‘s legendary football career. It’s in anamorphic video.
“ESPN SportsCenter: The Rock Learns to Play QB” is an actual interview from the ESPN program with Sean Salisbury interviewing Dwayne Johnson on the set about learning to play quarterback for the film. (Johnson played defensive positions in high school and college.) It runs 3½ minutes and is presented in nonanamorphic 4:3.
“Payton’s Makeover Madness” is a virtual decoration game for the younger set as the viewer is allowed to add sparkle and flash to Joe’s apartment.
“Universal Remote Mood Control” is a user control which allows the viewer to control the mood lighting of the main menu screen. Find Joe’s remote control on the main menu screen, and use arrow keys to make selections.
Previews of upcoming releases include Wall-E, Enchanted, 101 Dalmatians, The Aristocats, Tinker Bell, Snow Buddies, and Twitches, Too. The trailer for The Game Plan is not present on this disc but can be found on other Disney releases.
The Game Plan is an innocuous family film whose heart is in the right place but one that adults have seen many times before (down to the final play in the championship game with an injured hero trying to pull out a win). A rental might be the best bet here.