REVIEW: The Game Plan [PG]
Walt Disney Pictures
Release Date: January 22, 2008
Director: Andy Fickman
Starring: Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Madison Pettis, Roselyn Sanchez, Travis Sanders, Kyra Sedgwick
Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson (Gridiron Gang, Walking Tall) stars as Joe Kingman, star quarterback for the Boston Rebels professional football team. Although he has made a career for himself in a position requiring him to run a team, he often puts himself before his teammates. The self-proclaimed “King” even makes it a point to end each interview he does by reminding media and fans alike that he is “number one on the field and number one in your heart.” His main option on offense, when Kingman decides to look past himself, is Travis Sanders (Morris Chestnut – The Perfect Holiday, Like Mike), a conflicting personality to Kingman’s if there ever was one. The wide-receiver often gets ribbed by his teammates for his tendency to cut out early on post-game partying to spend time at home with his wife and kids.
Madison Pettis shines in her first feature-film role as Kingman’s estranged 8-year-old daughter, Peyton Kelly, the result of a short-lived marriage early in his career. The child Kingman never knew he had unexpectedly arrives at his apartment in the midst of the first championship run of his career. With her mother apparently on a month-long humanitarian trip in Africa, Peyton sets out to find and stay with her father.
Johnson and Pettis work well together as well as off of each other, portraying the difficulties of building such an important relationship, with this one being more complicated than it originally seems. Both stars bring emotion and passion to the table, even when their roles are meant to reflect their growing tension with each other. Likewise, their comedic timing helps keep the mood light at times, ensuring a greater emotional response in the moments when this father-daughter relationship develops. It is at times a really moving film, which says a lot for what may be considered by some critics as recycled material.
Johnson’s willingness to play the role up, as well as the chemistry had between the two stars, is what makes this film work in spite of being a story that’s been told before. Bringing his usual charisma to the role, he is never hesitant, even in the most demanding of cases. Whether getting covered in his protein shake or diving into giant bubble bath, the former wrestling superstar turned actor is just as game as his young co-star.
As for Pettis? The Disney Channel star has a rare understanding that acting is more than just dialogue. The girl is capable of moving a scene without saying much, if anything (Her expressions are priceless!).
The game plan for this one? Don’t miss it!
· Deleted Scenes – There are nine deleted scenes featured on the DVD. Many of these are short, and mostly all of them did not make the film due to time constraints or because of failure to move the story along, as explained in the director introduction that precedes each scene. Two scenes standout more than the others, “Peyton’s Sharing Lesson,” where the coach utilizes Peyton’s presence to teach the team, and her father in particular, that even when you win, you lose if you play selfishly. The other is the extended version of the ballet scene from the film, which would have fit in nicely but was cut from the film due to its lengthiness, running just under seven minutes.
· Bloopers with Marv Albert – An amusing three-minute blooper reel featuring play-by-play by legendary sportscaster Marv Albert.
· Drafting The Game Plan Behind-the-Scenes Featurette – Those involved with the film’s creation, cast and production alike, discuss the making of the film, featuring several interesting revelations. The first of these is made by producer Gordon Gray about how The Game Plan came about – Johnson actually called the Walt Disney Pictures showing interest in making an uplifting sports film by the production company, leading to the film being created for the Rock rather than having the actor cast in pre-production. It’s also revealed that the film was in jeopardy of being made when The Rock ruptured his Achilles’ heel just prior to physical production. This is a very in-depth and informative segment shows how at times the filming was difficult, but that the cast and production team really had fun making the film together.
· ESPN’s Sportcenter: The Rock Learns to Play QB – ESPN personalities Stuart Scott and Sean Salisbury, along with Johnson and the film’s production team, offer the viewers an inside look at the challenges Johnson faced in his portrayal of a pro-quarterback.
· ESPN’s Sportcenter DVD/Blu-Ray exclusive: The King in Search of a Ring – This exclusive biography of Joe Kingman of the Boston Rebel, hosted by ESPN’s Stuart Scott, shows his teammates growing impatience with his selfishness and ego. This is a key element of backstory for the film as it maintains continuity and is even featured in the film, with Johnson’s character watching this and getting upset with what is said about him.
– Christopher Griffin