The Game Plan

The Game Plan

**

Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

Joe Kingman is a star quarterback. A star in every sense. Calling himself 'Never Say No Joe' and 'the King', aping Elvis Presley, he is at the heart of a massive marketing campaign which has his image plastered everywhere - just as it is in his home. There, surrounded by his trophies, Joe can glory in his own success, with only his long-suffering dog, Spike, for company. He assures himself there's nothing missing from his life. This is the way he likes it. Until one day he opens his door to find an eight year old girl.

Peyton is the daughter Joe never knew he had, and now she's come to stay with him for a month. Apparently her mother is in Africa and cannot be reached. So Joe must learn how to be a father and how to cope as his life is turned upside down.

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Disney movies are all about traditional values, right? This is certainly a family friendly film which many children will enjoy, but there's something slightly disconcerting about the idea of fatherhood being the source of its main joke. It's not just that Joe is inexperienced, it's that he's found himself in a mum's world, as evidenced by his encounters at Peyton's ballet class and in a kids' play area. Of course, reticent though he is, he'll discover that he can cope with more than he thought, but underlying the humour is an expectation of his natural incompetence. It's Mr. Mom all over again.

The other big problem with this film is that it's a vehicle for The Rock. Whilst his acting isn't particularly terrible, it's decidedly charisma-free - he's out of his element and floundering around like a cop in a kindergarten. There's just no depth to his performance, nothing to make us care about his plight. Madison Pettis is fairly good as Peyton, making her a rounded character rather than just a plot device, but she can't carry the movie for both of them.

Despite Joe's profession, this is not really a sports movie - the American football scenes we see are few and far between, so may disappoint fans of the game misled by the film's advertising. They are, however, sufficient to confuse the uneducated (or non-American) viewer, making it hard to engage with the story's climax. The girl things in the story are better explained, presumably because the writers had to make an effort to research them. Largely thanks to Pettis' performance, the film does a good job of asserting the importance of these things, rather than just having Peyton be boyish. In the process it provides Joe with a potential love interest so we can be reassured that, despite his parenthood, he can remain a real man.

Just that bit too bland and stupid to work as no-brainer matinee entertainment, The Game Plan comes through reasonably well for children but less so for adults, who can almost certainly find better things to do with their time.

Reviewed on: 15 Feb 2008
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The Game Plan packshot
A self-centered American football star has to cope with sudden responsibility for the eight year old daughter he didn't know he had.
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Director: Andy Fickman

Writer: Nichole Millard, Kathryn Price

Starring: Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson, Madison Pettis, Kyra Sedgwick, Roselyn Sanchez, Morris Chestnut

Year: 2007

Runtime: 110 minutes

BBFC: U - Universal

Country: US

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