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The Game Plan

The Game Plan

Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 1 out of 5

EVERYTHING about The Game Plan wreaks of the predictable, from the stale premise to the career path of its main star. Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson follows in the footsteps of Arnie, Vin Diesel and even Sly Stallone in coming over all slushy and being taken down a peg or three by a cute/precocious child star.

Unfortunately, in The Game Plan‘s case, the emphasis is on precocious, which really rather ruins the enjoyability.

American football quarter-back hero Joe Kingman (Johnson) is a self-centred bachelor whose life is thrown into turmoil when Peyton (Madison Pettis), the eight-year-old daughter he never knew he had, turns up on his doorstep demanding to be looked after for a month.

Hence, Joe’s rich, pampered lifestyle is thrown by the wayside as he has to contend with an image change, newfound paternal responsibility and his daughter’s ballet ambitions. Will he be able to cope and lead his team to an unlikely Superbowl championship?

Andy Fickman’s film borrows heavily from the likes of Three Men & A Baby but delivers a lazy, overlong experience that not even the easygoing charisma of Johnson can save.

Jokes revolve around slapstick incidents involving bubble baths and food blender explosions, as well as the sight of Johnson in tights, while the serious stuff is left for final reel revelations about the real reason why Peyton has suddenly decided to seek out her father.

But aside from the odd surprise, it’s a laboured journey towards a fairytale ending in which the importance of family and selflessness are repeatedly emphasised.

Audiences will be able to guess, for instance, the answer to Peyton’s early question, “what’s the best thing that’s ever happened to you?” (and there’s no prizes for answering here!), just as they’ll know that his fellow team-mate and receiver will get that long overdue moment to shine come the final game.

Such an overly familiar scenario wouldn’t be quite so bad, however, if the film didn’t grate so much as it does – but in child star Madison Pettis’ (of Disney Channel fame) portrayal of Madison audiences are presented with a shining example of how NOT to bring up your child. The character of Peyton is beyond precocious – she repeatedly answers back, never does as she’s told, constantly manipulates people AND is granted practically every one of her demands – and yet is somehow still intended to be cute.

The Game Plan is therefore a hideously formulaic experience that should carry a different kind of parental warning: Don’t let your children watch in case it gives them ideas on how to behave!

Certificate: U
Running time: 1hr 56mins
UK DVD Release: July 14, 2008