If ever given a choice again, Judge Dennis Prince would prefer a groin pull to the anguish imposed by this Disney drudgery.
Our review of The Game Plan, published January 22nd, 2008, is also available.
Joe Kingman had the perfect game plan to win the championship…but first, he has to tackle one little problem.
Joe "The King" Kingman (The Rock, The Rundown) is the star quarterback that everyone loves—just ask him. His eyes are firmly focused on the championship trophy, that is when their not caught by his own fabulous reflection, and this wide-grinning wonder of the gridiron is sure to only increase his appeal to his millions of adoring fans. But just as he and his shrewish PR agent (Kyra Sedgwick, The Closer) are putting the final touches on a post-game endorsement that will garner the star player a cool $25 million, a surprise knock comes on the door from his own daughter, Peyton (Madison Pettis, Cory in the House), a conniving 8-year-old that he never knew he had. Peyton's arrival immediately throws a monkey wrench—and a taffeta pink tutu—in to the works as Joe unwittingly finds himself in a quandary that pits his own self-adoring aspirations against the big brown eyes that are welling up for their Dad.
At this point it would be acceptable to say "stop me if you've already heard this one," but this film steamrolls its so-by-the-numbers narrative that will never let you get a word in edgewise. There is absolutely nothing original about The Game Plan yet the film insults its viewers by behaving as if everything purported is fresh and funny; it's not. Unfortunately, those who are deceived into viewing the picture will quickly discover this is another tale where the spoiled among us must face off against a foe of equal self-absorption. When a child is exploited, however, as a cherub that bears horns, then the whole affair crumbles if not executed precisely. The Game Plan has no such precision and only goads us to eject the disc within the first fifteen minutes thanks to its poor interpretation of comedy through contrast.
Without exaggeration, The Game Plan is wholly un-digestible saccharine. As it clearly strives so hard to be sugary sweet, someone forgot to insert the candy thermometer in this saucepan of bubbling goo, the result being an overcooked concoction that stinks up the room for days to come. No kidding—this one is terrible and couldn't even hold the attention of an under-12 target viewer ("Can we watch something else?" the desperate entreaty quickly rang out). The Rock shows potential for comedy yet is trapped in such inane situations that leave the audience to laugh at him, not with him.
Unfortunately, this entire debacle unravels at the expense of the capable Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson. Having shown himself as another capable athlete-turned-actor, the Rock has flexed is impressive muscles as The Scorpion King, as a member of The Gridiron Gang, and as first-person-shooter in Doom. Granted, his body of work is not what you could yet consider truly "cinematic," he nonetheless displays a presence and, now, even charm in front of the camera. Unfortunately, he seems to have gotten some bad advice when he signed on to this particular picture, the sort of film that can quickly dash any hopes of landing roles in significant productions and possibly tag him as a perpetual second-rate attraction. This, of course, would be entirely unfair to the Rock and hopefully he can find a new script that will help all of us forever forget this errant pass of a production. As for big-screen newcomer Madison Pettis as Payton, well, we'll just hope that her hopeful silver screen career can likewise withstand this first-effort fumble. Behaving as if she has a sweetness knob turned up to '11,' her attempts toward endearing cuteness and doe-eyed manipulation simply grate on the nerves. Fittingly, garishly lipsticked Kyra Sedgwick also falls victim to the childish screenplay and looks similarly silly amid this dreck. Pardon the harsh words here but honestly it's utterly confounding that a film like this was never whistled for being downright un-entertaining.
Likewise, a new release being heavily touted as a great new release on the Blu-ray disc format, The Game Plan could make for an easy interception for the red team. If the Blu side continues to tout a larger library of high-definition releases—especially the usually coveted Disney catalog—then has to cite offerings like this, well, the future looks rather gray, doesn't it? Technically, the disc performs very well with a pristine source transferred to a striking image thanks to the 1080p / AVC MPEG-4 encode. While the largely interior-based shots look good, the actual game scenes play a bit sharper, aspiring to mimic actual HD broadcasts of NFL contests. Contrast is well managed, shadow detail is well represented without noticeable crush, and colors are rendered competently, especially flesh tones. The audio comes by way of an uncompressed PCM 5.1 surround track that too often goes underutilized, until the few game scenes. The dialog is always easy to understand but the original sound design of this hamstrung would-be sports comedy leaves the technology's greatest surround potential back in the locker room.
As if knowing the feature film wouldn't fly with most viewers, Disney has loaded this disc with a helmet full of extras including some Blu-ray exclusive handouts. First up is mock featurette, The King in Search of a Ring, in which ESPN's Stuart Scott hosts an overview of fictitious Joe Kingman's quest for greatness. The next featurette, Drafting the Plan, is a usual making-of docu that contains on-set elements and interviews that should have told this filmmaking team they were doomed to lose. A hefty half-hour of deleted scenes follows, largely extensions of feature-film sequences and proof again that, try as they might, this plan would fail. In The Rock Learns to Play QB we follow the star in his tough training to appear a competent quarterback on screen. ESPN analyst Sean Salisbury interviews The Rock along the way. A brief blooper reel follows, succeeded by the out-of-place interactive feature, Peyton's Makeover Madness (only for those who find interest in virtually redecorating Joe's apartment). Theatrical trailers for other Disney films (but not this one) wrap up the standard extras, the same that can also be found on the DVD release. Moving on to the Blu-ray exclusive content, first you'll find a relatively clever take on the usual audio commentary, this one called Chalk Talk, during which Director Andy Fickman and The Rock sit down and discuss the film as they draw upon the screen, telestrator style. Unexpectedly, this visual commentary is better than the film's actual soundtrack and the congenial Rock reveals that there's so much more within him than this tepid kiddie-fare ever taps. Lastly, if your home is equipped with D-Box seating technology, you can get a bit of rumble by enabling the D-Box feature.
It's a shame to have been so let down by this film, one that could have been so much better if the Rock hadn't been held back from delivering a real sports comedy. Instead, we'll toss this one in the back of the closet and hope it gets forgotten like so many sports teams' losing seasons.
Guilty as charged.
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• Chalk Talk telestrator commentary (Blu-ray exclusive)
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