Game Plan (The)
R1 - America - Buena Vista Home Entertainment - WIDESCREEN
Review written by and copyright: James Teitelbaum (2nd February 2008).
The Film

From where, I wonder, came the trend of taking big, brutish monkey men and turning them into cute and cuddly kids movie stars? Everyone from Arnold Schwarzenegger to Hulk Hogan to Mr. T - all wrestlers, body builders, tough guys, and killing machines - have ended up playing cuddly slapstick roles later in their careers. I am not sure who it was that first thought of casting the muscle bound badasses in family movies, but these guys have all done them at some point. There is some sort of career milestone marker here: from nightclub bouncer and body building aficionados, to gun wielding action movie stars, and then straight to pasture for an afterlife as family-friendly Disney icons. The question is whether these lightweight comedies mark the middle of a career or the end of a career. Arnie went on to be the governor of California, so clearly "Kindergarten Cop" (1990) didn't hurt him too much, but Hulk Hogan and Mr. T aren't exactly A-listers these days.
The latest fella to make a living kicking people's asses before going on to star against an eight-year-old kid in a Disney film is Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson. After spending a decade body-slamming people in the WWF, Johnson has turned to acting in recent years. Well, something resembling acting, anyway.
"The Game Plan" is a Disney production starring Johnson as a successful football player whose team is about to make it to the playoffs. He has a swank bachelor pad, a rather expensive car, lots of hot babes, a tremendous ego, and a fetish for Elvis Presley. With the exception of that last bit, he's a completely by-the-book character. Perhaps the character sees his own successful position in football as being parallel to Elvis's untouchable position in rock music. Indeed, they even both have the same nickname: 'The King'.
With no warning, a little girl, Peyton (Madison Pettis) walks into his world of parties, sports, and fame; she announces that she is his daughter. Outlining the rest of the story is not necessary: every joke, every plot point, and every supporting character is lifted directly from the light comedy play book. There are no surprises here whatsoever. The story is tired, the jokes are tired, and the two leads - adult male and little girl - are both poor actors. The kid, at least has an excuse (she's a kid). The comedy gives way to a bit of requisite drama in the last third of the film. I suppose that this movie has some messages about family values that the kids could be exposed to; this is harmless family entertainment. But would it could be just as wholesome and kid-friendly if there were some originality here. Creativity is a family value, right?
The usually dependable Kyra Sedgwick shows up for a paycheck, playing the standard press agent character: manic, soulless, and greedy (see my review of "Mr. Woodcock" (2007), and you'll discover an absolutely identical character). Sedgwick has been in better roles, and has to suffer the indignity of a wholly unnecessary fart joke late in this film. Roselyn Sanchez plays the kid's dance teacher. This is character template #27, the pretty woman who is involved in the kid's life, and who makes the star feel bad for not being better to his child. If nothing else, she's easy on the eyes, and she provides the story's only real surprise: her character and Johnson's do not get together romantically. Paige Turco comes out of hiding in a small role too - geeks out there will remember her as April in the send and third installments of the "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" films (1991-1993).

Video

The aspect ratio is 2.35:1, enhanced for 16x9 televisions. The running time for this film feels endless at 1:50:11, divided into 20 chapters. For a kid's movie, this is a good twenty minutes too long. The look of the movie is a little weird, as if all of the colors were somehow artificially enhanced, giving the images a sort of unnatural appearance. Edge enhancement is off the charts on this disc, so that may be part of what makes some of the characters seem to pop right out of the sets. It is distracting.

Audio

Audio options are Dolby Digital 5.1 in English, French, and Spanish, with the same options for subtitles. This is a moderately busy film, and the surrounds are used for things like the sporting arena scenes, party scenes, and other ambient effects. Dialogue is always intelligible, and is allowed to drift away from the center speaker from time to time. Music takes the center stage now and again, such as when the Electric Light Orchestra chestnut Mr. Blue Sky provides underscore for a feel-good scene.

Extras

Buena Vista has included some bloopers, a featurette, some ESPN clips, deleted scenes, an interactive game and some bonus trailers. Below is a closer look at these supplements.

First up we've got bloopers with Marv Albert which runs for 2 minutes 57 second, and is the standard blooper reel narrated by Albert.

"Drafting the Game Plan" runs for 20 minutes 14 seconds, this is your basic promotional featurette. Interviews with the cast and crew are mixed with on-set footage and memorable scenes from the film.

"ESPN's Sportscenter" clip runs for 3 minutes 30 seconds and is a real ESPN news report about Johnson's being cast in the film. The cable sports network goes on location, and there is a brief interview with the actor.

"ESPN's Sportscenter: the King in Search of a Ring"clip runs for 5 minutes 4 seconds and is a mock ESPN documentary about Johnson's character.

9 deleted scenes are up next with optional introduction by director Andy Fickman:

- "Joe Actually Loses One" runs for 1 minute 37 seconds, Joe's team loses a game.
- "Joe's Party" runs for 2 minutes 7 seconds, Joe's agent makes a deal at a party.
- "Joe's Special Friends" runs for 44 seconds, Joe flirts with two girls at the party.
- "Practice with Peyton" runs for 51 seconds, Peyton comes to football practice.
- "Peyton's Sharing Lesson" runs for 2 minutes 44 seconds, Peyton helps the coach reprimand the team.
- "Can You Catch?" runs for 25 seconds, Joe and Peyton play catch.
- "Like Father Like Daughter" runs for 39 seconds, Joe and Peyton look at the empty stadium.
- "Rebels' Owner" runs for 30 seconds, Joe's manager schmoozes with some people.
- "Ballet Extended" runs for 6 minutes 50 seconds, longer version of the ballet scene.

"Peyton's Makeover Madness" interactive game is a feature listed on the box, but which requires minor Easter Egg-hunting skills to find, it's a kids game that lets you redecorate the objects seen on the main menu page, which is a still image of Joe's apartment.

Finally a collection of bonus trailers wraps up the bonus features:

- "101 Dalmatians" which runs for 1 minute 31 seconds.
- "Disney Blu-ray" spot which runs for 2 minutes 2 seconds.
- "Wall-E" which runs for 1 minute 30 seconds.
- "Enchanted" which runs for 2 minutes 30 seconds.
- "Snow Buddies" which runs for 4 minutes 16 seconds.
- "Tinkerbell" which runs for 47 seconds.
- "The Aristocats" which runs for 1 minute 12 seconds.
- "Twitches Too" runs for 53 seconds.

Overall

The Film: D+ Video: C+ Audio: A Extras: B- Overall: C-

 


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