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Friday, 1 June 2018

Retro Review: The Game Plan (2007)

The Game Plan
Cast: Dwayne ''The Rock'' Johnson, Kyra Sedgwick, Morris Chestnut, Roselyn Sanchez, Brian J. White
Genre: Family Comedy
Worldwide Box Office Gross: over $147 million

Plot: An NFL quarterback living the bachelor lifestyle discovers that he has an 8-year-old daughter from a previous relationship 

'Family Football Comedy Still Makes That Touchdown'

Once there was a time before Dwayne Johnson became the big name Hollywood actor in blockbusters such as Fast & The Furious 8, GI Joe: Retaliation, Jumanji Welcome to the Jungle & Rampage, where in-between his regular appearances as The Rock for WWE, he appeared and starred in so-called mid-range to lower-tier movie fare. Welcome To The Jungle, The Mummy Returns, The Rundown to video game film flop, Doom. At the time of release, The Game Plan was Johnson's 10th major movie, but also his first family offering & despite the poor reception and harsh critical feedback, this was surprisingly watchable and entertaining throughout.

Joe Kingman (Dwayne Johnson) is the star quarterback for the fictional football team known as the Boston Rebels. As good a player as he is, Joe is also unfortunately very vain, shallow and who lives a somewhat pampered lifestyle. So when a young 8-yr-old girl who shows up outside his apartment, claims to be his daughter, he starts to panic. This also occurs at a time where the Rebels are in the playoffs. As the film develops, Joe's attitudes change as he comes to the realisation he has to deliver not just on the football field, but also by being a good parent and father to his little girl. 

The Game Plan is hardly a game changer, nor a pioneer in movies in general, yet as family fare goes in addition to being pleasant and nice, this is spearheaded by the good turns by the main adult performers. Although arguably, the female supports in Kyra Sedgwick, Paige Turco and Roselyn Sanchez are a tad stronger than the male ones in Brian J. White & co.

Disney live-action films, especially comedies tend to be a hit & miss affair; there are some good ones (Flubber) and not so good ones (Jungle 2 Jungle, Old Dogs). Fortunately, The Game Plan is the former and it helps that it is spearheaded by a strong lead in Dwayne Johnson and who is one of the fewest wrestlers and sports athletes who can not only put on a good show as an actor but who can convince as an actor too that the audience and his fans buy him as one. He is also very believable, has charisma, an affable screen presence, doesn't come across as stilted, one-note or overemote in his performances, and with The Game Plan, he shows how good he is and how effective and deft he can be in a family movie. 

Though the sports subtext means football enthusiasts and fans, particularly males, will be keen on the film, The Game Plan also boasts a set of actresses who may be familiar to some audiences; Kyra Sedgwick adds a degree of infectious enthusiasm, intertwined with her snark and sarcasm as the blunt child-hating agent of Joe's, much to my amusement. Although some people may take a strong disliking for her character. Paige Turco who I last saw in 1991's Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2, fares okay as the young girl, Payton's guardian, whilst Roselyn Sanchez rounds up the solid support.

The 110-minute runtime means the film does feel bloated, though much like with many other Disney films, it has some touchy-feely & poignant moments, though here they were tolerable and well done. I would categorise it as a comedy-drama. It's formulaic, with a predictable ending, but it was also a kids/family movie that didn't have me wincing or cringing from end to end. Which was a plus, as I generally liked the amusing scenes here. 

Final Verdict:

I was literally surprised by how much I liked this one. A film that was pretty much dismissed by many movie critics, deep down, The Game Plan delves into the realities of being a professional sports athlete and coming to terms with being a parent, without becoming too overly sentimental. Being a Disney film, I was worried it would be like that, & that not only would it detract from the story, it would make it too overwhelming. It didn't. 

With great American Football action, a good story that eventually makes strides and impressive turns particularly by star man Dwayne Johnson as quarterback Joe, this game plan actually worked. 


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