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|The Game Plan|
|R E V I E W B Y R I C H C L I N E||
dir Andy Fickman|
scr Nichole Millard, Kathryn Price
with Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, Madison Pettis, Kyra Sedgwick, Roselyn Sanchez, Morris Chestnut, Hayes MacArthur, Brian White, Jamal Duff, Paige Turco, Kate Nauta, Gordon Clapp, Jackie Flynn
release US 28.Sep.07, UK 7.Mar.08
07/US Disney 1h50
Are you my daddy? Pettis and The Rock
Despite its almost painfully silly predictability, this film somehow manages to be engaging and rather enjoyable, thanks mainly to The Rock's on-screen charisma.
Joe Kingman (The Rock) is a top American football pro, completely obsessed with himself and his star power. His buddies on his Boston team (Chestnut, MacArthur and White) put up with his diva attitudes; the girls like his charm, bank balance and rippling muscles. Then one day 8-year-old Peyton (Pettis) lands on his doorstep: the daughter he never knew he had. As he quickly shows his lack of fatherhood experience, his zealous agent (Sedgwick) starts spinning the story. The next thing he knows, he's taking Peyton to ballet lessons and learning Important Life Lessons himself.
There's not much about this film that deserves to work. The plot is pure formula, and we never have a moment of doubt how it's going to turn out--either in the father-daughter story, the underdeveloped romance with the ballet teacher (Sanchez) or the football championship itself. Each character fits into his or her tidy little box--sassy child, desperate agent, smouldering dancer, spiky girlfriend (Nauta), and fellow teammates who are the family man, buffoon or playboy, as required.
Even The Rock's character is a bundle of cliches, from his high-tech penthouse mansion to his relentlessly over-the-top self-worship. The difference is that The Rock hugely watchable on screen; we like him even if his acting isn't terribly subtle. His beefy physicality feels like a costume worn by a nice guy who's not afraid to look profoundly silly on screen, and that goes a long way to making his character--and the whole film--so winning.
This is true even when he's being upstaged by the cute little girl and his character's even more adorable English bulldog. And also as all of the plotlines start converging into the overwrought conclusion, with the requisite swell of annoyingly syrupy sentiment and fairly shameless overacting by the entire cast. For some reason, it actually keeps our attention right to the goofy end, and is even a little bit thrilling and emotional. Although we would never admit that.
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© 2008 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall
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