Curse Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson (time to start fading the nickname out) for being so charismatic and charming in almost everything he does.
I wanted to hate every stereotype Disney's new comedy "The Game Plan" had; every god-awful punch line that was tossed out and the plot devices that had the depth of a pornography screenplay. But Johnson made it work and, lo and behold, I caught myself caring by the film's surprisingly sincere and thoughtful ending.
Of course, there is nothing surprising about the rest of the plot. Johnson is Joe Kingman, the hot shot quarterback for the fictional Boston Rebels, who parties, womanizes and generally only cares about himself. Though it's strange that a character who Johnson says is based on Joe Namath never seems to drink anything but Coke and never once stutters the words, "I just wanna kiss you." Just as everything is looking right for Joe and his team is going to "the championship" (couldn’t Disney get some officially-licensed NFL love?), a surprise arrives on his ridiculously modern apartment’s doorstep in the form of his daughter Peyton Kelly (Maddison Pettis), who Joe did not even know existed. Joe must take her into his home for the next month; messes in the immaculate apartment, ballet dancing and bedazzling ensue.
It’s all terribly uncreative and yet a decently real father/daughter relationship develops. While Peyton is a little more smart lipped and mature for any girl her age — and many of the things she does warrant far more than the stern but understanding look she gets from everybody in the film — the character is devilishly strong-willed and not just a trouble maker for the sake of making trouble like so many other children in this kind of film.
Probably the biggest draw to the movie is the fact that there isn’t much family oriented fun out there these days. The theaters are crammed full of R-rated adult films and "The Game Plan" is the exact opposite of that: easy laughs for kids and a little heart for adults.
In the end, though, it is all about Johnson. Whether he is dancing in tights during his newfound daughter’s ballet, trying to act tough in front of his team or singing a little Elvis, Johnson has that "it" that everyone is so crazy about. While no one is going to be handing him an Oscar any time soon, at least "The Game Plan" gave him a chance to flex some acting skills and not just his muscles. It bodes well for the future of his career that this is also the second film in a row that he hasn’t raised his eyebrow.
<1b>— Matthew Razak