So I took a break from my thrillicious morning (read: applying for middle management jobs at Tire Kingdom) to check out the The Game Plan, the latest escapee from the Disney DVD vault, starring The “Dwayne Johnson” Rock. Mr. Rock plays Joe Kingman, the QB of the Boston Rebels who loves himself, football, and Elvis—in that order—although his Elvis worship is perhaps based on their mutual nickname, “The King”. The Rebels have plowed through their opponents to reach the playoffs of the Unnamed-For-Copyright-Reasons football league and Joe is a big part of their success, mainly because he refuses to pass to his teammates in favor of running in all of the touchdowns himself.*
It just takes one glance at the suitcase-toting pixie beside him on the DVD case, and we can surmise that things are going to change for Joe**, that he won’t be spending many more evenings alone, watching and re-watching Sportcenter segments about himself (which is how I imagine Terrell Owens spends his free time).
The night after a party involving Russian models and, um, teammates leaving early to get home to their families (Right, like you expected Playmakers), Joe answers a knock at his door and learns that the girl standing in the hall is the result of one of his, um, naked bootlegs. Now before you spew some Tom Brady/Matt Leinart-style snark, allow me to point out that Joe was married to her mother, Sarah, and they were divorced before she knew she’d been quarterback sneaked. And she’s now off providing fresh drinking water to the drought-ravaged children of the Sudan***, so don’t hate.
Joe’s daughter, Peyton Kelly****, will be living with him for a month and—you guessed it—hijinks will ensue! She’ll bedazzle his jacket!***** ELO’s “Mr. Blue Sky” will play! Joe is understandably reluctant to allow an 8 year old into his impeccably groomed, leather and luxury lifestyle. “I don’t have a guest room!” he announces, “Because I don’t like guests!” (Subtext: All of those Russian models are all dispatched before the nightly news, because he is not married to them.) But his agent (Kyra Sedgwick, looking more and more like she’s made of melting wax) concedes that it would be worse for his image if he booted her, so Peyton follows him everywhere from practice to nightclubs to the locker room, which surely led to a delicate discussion involving the phrases “That’s because he’s uncircumcised” and “Don’t tell your mother”.
I won’t throw in any SPOILERS! but you can probably guess the plot points…this flick was built using the “career-oriented, self-involved dude is forced to accept change, learn how to care about others and in turn learn about himself” blueprints and is aimed mainly at children or people who find the films of Martin Lawrence to be too challenging. It’s like Turner & Hooch but with a kid. Or Cop and a Half with sort-of kind-of maybe partially white people.
But I’m OK with that. The Disney-watchin’ set doesn’t want Michael Gondry or The Usual Suspects. They want people falling down and mishaps with bubbles and dogs wearing clothes, and The Game Plan delivers on all three. It also has a very likeable leading man in The Rock, who has excellent comic timing and spends several scenes shirtless.****** Actually, the most unbelievable part of this movie is the idea that a
a Heisman-winning QB could make it to the Championship game (Boston vs. New York, no less! THE GAME PLAN CAN SEE THE FUCKING FUTURE!)
My problems were with Peyton, a character from the Michelle Tanner School of Child Actors, where she’s given very astute, articulate dialogue and it’s supposed to be hilarious because she’s a child! And she’s analyzing adults! And she has curly hair! Unfortunately, Peyton’s not likeable, not at all. She’s whiny, manipulative, with sprinkles of liar on top.
She behaves exactly the way Joe is criticized for behaving and she turns one tantrum into an accusation when she threatens to tell the press that Joe gave her a margarita. Yes, I’ve been known to overthink even the fluffiest Applebees commercials (How does the apple afford and maintain such a large home? How can it eat, let alone digest, any of the Applebees menu items?) but that seems a bit serious. Besides, Joe would’ve offered her vodka tonics instead. Fewer carbs.
Near the end, when Joe sincerely says “I’d do anything to keep a smile on your face”, she demands a trip to the toy store. My Peyton sympathies are nil at this point and I start longing for the days when children worked in coal mines.
The third act tried to turn toward Tragedy Town but instead got stalled in Boringsburg (unincorporated). The treacly bits really drug and could possibly kill your kid’s enthusiasm for repeat viewings. But if you need a PG-rated babysitter for a couple of hours this weekend, you could definitely do worse than this flick. Just don’t blame me when the dog gets Bedazzled.
* Tim Tebow fails to see the problem with this approach.
** This tableau would be more troubling if Joe had an obsession with Jerry Lee Lewis.
*** One of Peyton’s actual lines from the film. I warned you. Although initially I thought she said “the drug-ravaged children”. Potato, potahto.
**** Not, as you would assume, named for Peyton Manning. She said she was named for Nobel Prize winner Peyton Rous, whose achievements were, sadly, never commemorated with a FatHead.
***** What is it with Boston players and the damn Bedazzler?
****** Those scenes can be found at 3:17, 22:13, 51:10, and 1:14:09.