Photo Credit: Ron Phillips
© Disney Enterprises, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Semptember 28, 2007
Sports-Themed Family Comedy
Dwayne Johnson, Madison Pettis, Kyra Sedgwick, Roselyn Sanchez, Gordon Clapp
Andy Fickman (She's the Man)
Mark Ciardi and Gordon Gray(Invincible, Miracle, The Rookie ), partners of Mayhem Pictures
Nichole Millard and Kathryn Price
Walt Disney Pictures, in association with Mayhem Pictures
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Disney Makes 'Rock' Solid Touchdown With New Comedy
By Laura J. Bagby
CBN.com Sr. Producer
- A hunky lead, a cuter-than-cute co-star, a heartwarming story that will make you laugh – all with a family-friendy PG rating with no swearing, no sex, and no gratuitous violence? OK, movie fans, take that victory lap!
Opening in theaters September 28, The Game Plan is a Walt Disney Pictures/Mayhem Pictures sports-themed family comedy starring Dwayne Johnson (better known as “The Rock” to wrestling fans; The Mummy Returns, The Gridiron Gang) as Boston Rebel’s vain MVP quarterback and Elvis wannabe, Joe Kingman, and his diminutive leading lady in her movie debut, 7-year-old Madison Pettis (of Disney Channel’s Cory in the House) as the daughter Joe never knew he had, Peyton Kelly.
Rounding out the cast are Golden Globe winner Kyra Sedgwick (Deputy Police Chief Brenda Jean Johnson in TNT’s The Closer; The Woodsman) as Joe’s hard-bitten, non-parental sports agent, Stella Peck; Roselyn Sanchez (Elena Delgado in CBS’ Without a Trace; Rush Hour 3) as the challenging Latina ballet instructor Monique Vasquez; and Emmy Award winner Gordon Clapp (Detective Greg Medavoy in NYPD Blue) as Coach Mark Maddox.
At a Glance
The film opens with a New Year’s Eve party at Joe’s city penthouse apartment, which is filled with giant-sized pictures of himself and his favorite hero, Elvis, and various football-themed paraphernalia, including a replica Boston Rebels arena bed for his manly bulldog, Spike. It’s obvious right away that this machismo narcissist loves to play the field, both professionally and personally.
But all that gets challenged when the daughter of his ex-wife, Peyton (named for French Nobel Prize winner Peyton Rous, not football star Peyton Manning, Peyton points out ), suddenly appears needing a place to stay for a month while she attends ballet camp, and Joe is forced to learn a different playbook: fatherhood.
At first, Joe tries to treat his daughter like an adult buddy, getting her to wear football helmets, taking her to bars, leaving her at home alone while he dates his supermodel girlfriend, and asking her to hang out in the guy’s locker room – all inappropriate behaviors for a father of a little girl.
But when Joe’s poor parenting skills bring him bad press and disheartened fans, Joe is forced to change his bad-boy image if he wants to restore his reputation and further his career. And that means getting along with his daughter.
Joe must learn to balance his male-dominated world of football with Peyton’s girlie-girl world of ballet. The contrasting worlds makes for some key comedic moments between the hulky hero and his precocious, tiny daughter, especially when Joe must don a pair of green tights to become the “enchanted tree” in Peyton’s ballet.
Eventually, Joe realizes that above everything else, beyond even winning the playoff game that would shoot him to instant fame and fortune, he wants to win over his daughter.
When the pressure is on, Joe comes to understand that he has what it takes to win at both the game of football and the game of life.
Johnson is a shoe-in for the role of Joe Kingman, and that's because the producers and the writing team created this role with him in mind from the beginning. Therefore, it isn't a stretch to envision Dwayne Johnson as a football star, considering he played football for 10 years and was a member of the 1991 NCAA Champion Univeristy of Miami Hurricanes before a back injury kept him from NFL stardom. Neither is it really unusual that Johnson would portray an Elvis fan on screen, knowing that he was instrumental in adding this layer to his character, Joe "The King" Kingman, since Johnson himself admits he has great respect for the Graceland singer. In fact, Johnson gets the chance to do an on-screen solo of the famed Elvis ballad "Are You Lonesome Tonight?" and though not American Idol quality, his rendition is refreshingly tender and unexpectedly sweet. Lastly, like his movie character, Johnson has a young daughter, so portraying fatherhood was not far-fetched in the least.
The true test comes with the addition of comedy, not something this massive muscle man is known for - yet. I wouldn't normally pair the terms retired wrestler with today's up-and-coming lead funny man in the same sentence, but he has great comic timing. His hilarious misadventures range from overflowing bubble baths, to discovering that his prized football has been "bedazzled", to trying to enjoy tea in a doll shop, to performing ballet moves while trying to appear studly. In each case, he excels at this kind of physical comedy.
But the best scene by far is the one in which Peyton gives the football star a cinnamon cookie just before his TV commercial endorsement. Joe, who is highly allergic to the spice, finds himself practically gagging and lisping his way to the football stadium to make what was supposed to be a stellar performance. He ends up sounding more like a big baby than a serious football star. It reminded me a bit of Will Smith's rendition of Hitch when Hitch learns he has just eaten seafood. I really hope to see more of this kind of fun and light humor again from someone who is more prone to be cast as an action hero than a comedian.
Newcomer Madison Pettis also holds her own on screen, not a small task when you have the ingenue playing opposite a well-known and very charismatic lead like Johnson. Instead of coming off as as too precocious to be endearing, Pettis' confidence and cuteness sparkle on the big screen. Plus, she looks a bit like Johnson, so she is believable as his on-screen daughter.
On the down side, I was really hoping to see more fancy footwork and awesome sports plays both in the football game sequences and the ballet performance shots, considering the attention the cast and crew gave to making those scenes credible.
Roselyn Sanchez, who plays the talented dance instructor Monique, grew up in Puerto Rico dancing ballet since age 4. Knowing that for this production Sanchez and her dance team would have to learn an entire new ballet, it's a shame that we didn't get to see more of it captured on film.
The same could be said for the football game scenes, in which football coordinator Mark Ellis worked with several former pro stars, including former New England Patriot Brian White, who plays Boston Rebels running back Jamal Webber, and former New York Giant and Washington Redskin lineman Jamal Duff, who plays offensive lineman Clarene Monroe. Perhaps much of that was due to Johnson tearing his achilles tendon during practice shortly before shooting, forcing the crew to change how they filmed those scenes.
I was likewise frustrated by one glaring plot hole in the film, namely how little Peyton Kelly manages to appear alone in Boston at her father's doorstep. I assumed her caretaker, Karen (Paige Turco of Invincible), was on some humanitarian project in Africa and had sent her to Boston for a month-long ballet camp. That's what I got from watching the film.
What I didn't understand, until the writers explained later, was that Peyton had lost her mother six months ago to a car accident. Aunt Karen takes Peyton on as her charge but is called to a job in Africa. Apparently, the writers had in mind that Peyton and her Aunt Karen would fly into Boston together, and from there, Karen would go on to Africa and Peyton would be driven to the Boston ballet camp. Being the smart and curious child, Peyton had e-mailed ahead to have the driver take her to her father's penthouse. While Peyton has run away to her dad's, Aunt Karen still thinks her niece is safe at the overnight ballet camp. If you didn't get all that backstory, not to worry. Now you know.
There are some predictable moments and everything gets neatly wrapped up in the end – but, hey, that’s Disney. It kind of goes with the territory, as they say.
The Game Plan fumbles a bit on the plot, but overall I think the film wins on humor. Families will enjoy this clean, fun flick.
For more about The Game Plan, visit the official Movie Site.
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More articles by Laura Bagby on CBN.com
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