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The Game Plan DVD Review

The Game Plan movie poster The Game Plan

Theatrical Release: September 28, 2007 / Running Time: 110 Minutes / Rating: PG

Director: Andy Fickman / Writers: Nichole Millard, Kathryn Price (story & screenplay); Audrey Wells (story)

Cast: Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson (Joe Kingman), Madison Pettis (Peyton Kelly), Kyra Sedgwick (Stella Peck), Roselyn Sanchez (Monique Vasquez), Morris Chestnut (Travis Sanders), Hayes MacArthur (Kyle Cooper), Brian White (Jamal Webber), Jamal Duff (Clarence Monroe), Paige Turco (Karen Kelly), Tubbs (Spike), Gordon Clapp (Coach Mark Maddox), Kate Nauta (Tatianna), Robert Torti (Samuel Blake, Jr.), Jackie Flynn (Larry the Doorman), Lauren Storm (Nanny Cindy), Marv Albert (Himself), Boomer Esiason (Himself), Jim Gray (Himself), Stuart O. Scott (Himself), Steven Levy (Himself), Eric Ogbogu (Drake), Christine Lakin (Nichole), Elizabeth Chambers (Kathryn)

Buy The Game Plan from Amazon.com: Widescreen DVD Fullscreen DVD Blu-ray Disc


Since Remember the Titans achieved financial and critical success, Disney has been treating audiences to one new sports film a year, all of which have strived for the label "inspirational true story." We've seen ordinary folks turn professional athletes (The Rookie, Invincible), teams overcome racial prejudices (Jerry Bruckheimer's Titans redux Glory Road), and underdogs overcome odds (be they a working class teen golfer in The Greatest Game Ever Played or a hybrid Olympic hockey squad in Miracle).
While granting big screen treatment to these dramatic triumphs, the studio has gone several years without sending a sports comedy to theaters. That genre has remained the stuff of memories, whether it's breezy '90s works like Cool Runnings, Angels in the Outfield, and The Mighty Ducks or even goofier '70s farces such as Gus and The World's Greatest Athlete that you remember.

One look at the poster art for The Game Plan, which has been reproduced for the DVD cover, suggests that the sports comedy lives on at Disney. Alas, there is little sport and even less comedy to be found in this horrid movie. Here, with his top billing reflecting a career-transitional name, former wrestler Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson stars as Joe Kingman, an egotistical starting quarterback for the Boston Rebels, a fake team in a professional football league that, for copyright purposes, is not the NFL but looks a great deal like it. Kingman is living the sweet life, which includes women, parties, and a spacious, well-furnished bachelor pad.

In the type of bombshell surprise that's inevitably diegetic, Kingman learns that he has an 8-year-old daughter from a short-lived marriage when said byproduct (Madison Pettis, "Cory in the House") shows up at his place with a birth certificate and plans to stay for a month. Kingman is a manly man, while Peyton is a girly girl. We get that instantly, but the movie really likes this idea (and nothing else), so we're shown the contrast again and again in various contexts, none of which are able to supply the proceedings with a single laugh. She puts jewels in things and does ballet, he hangs with the guys and acts tough. And so on.

In "The Game Plan", Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson plays Joe Kingman, an Elvis fan who's also star quarterback for the Boston Rebels. True to life, the pro football star only learns about his daughter (Madison Pettis) when she's 8 and shows up at his door with a note.

This is the type of project that no doubt had its origins in a one-paragraph pitch. Whatever promise got executives to greenlight it, though, is most definitely not realized in this predictable, hokey, and weak outing. There are so many problems here that even adhering to our substantial standard body length, I feel like some glaring ones are bound to be overlooked. Let me tackle some of the biggest ones first.

The characters are universally terrible and not even one-dimensional. Kingman simply is narcissistic, Peyton is just youthful. Neither one endears the viewer much, so it's only by sheer screentime they hold our attention. Supporting personalities fare even worse; Joe's icy agent (Kyra Sedgwick, TNT's "The Closer") is clearly bad news, but at least she makes an impact. Not many of Kingman's four focal teammates do;
the token white guy (Hayes MacArthur) is a plain bumbling idiot, wide receiver Travis Sanders (Morris Chestnut) narrowly registers as a sensible family man, and I think the big guy (Jamal Duff) is almost revealed to possess sensitivity beyond his bass speaking voice. Really all they serve to do is laugh at and question their pal as he makes the obvious move towards mature parenthood. That's still more than what the obligatory love interest, sassy Latina ballet instructor Monique (Roselyn Sanchez), does.

Stylistically, The Game Plan is a disaster. I've never encountered such poor, choppy pacing. In the name of holding no shot longer than a few seconds, the movie lacks fundamental coherency. If it had more than had the slightest resemblance to real life, it'd be quite troubling. As it is, it's just disconcerting. Of course, when this slipshod structure is abandoned in the third quarter, it is to allow the film to shamelessly dabble in sentimentality, something that had gratefully been avoided earlier. It is apparent early on where the film is going and getting there is no great shakes. Yet, the journey is hindered by a ceaseless score by Nathan Wang which constantly attempts to manipulate without rhyme or reason.

Monique (Roselyn Sanchez) isn't entirely comfortable with the English language, but she's got some lessons to teach The King. Joe's agent Stella Peck (Kyra Sedgwick) gives off bad vibes as she stresses the importance of a $25 million fast food endorsement.

Less seasoned movie viewers may not notice or care about how technically shaky, emotionally vapid, or by-the-numbers this is. In fact, moviegoers lapped up The Game Plan in theaters to the tune of $90 million domestically, surely well above the production costs, which go further than usual with rampant exposure of ESPN sportscasters, multiple showcases of Disney Channel properties, and the occasional instance of product placement.

To put Game Plan in the same class as something as mildly charming as, say, The Big Green, is to err. Those looking for football will be disappointed that the angle namely serves as a backdrop, bookends, and needless afterthought. Those up for a good laugh would be better off checking out the hollow structure that is primetime network television during the Writers' Guild strike. Finally, those seeking family entertainment which lives up to its name and entertains the family would be wiser to go back and find earlier works that dealt with similar material in a fresher way. Three Men and a Baby and Jungle 2 Jungle come to mind, and that's just limiting you to PG-rated Disney remakes of French comedies. There's a vast world of cinema waiting to be discovered and not much of it is as bad as The Game Plan.

Buy The Game Plan: Widescreen Edition DVD from Amazon.com DVD Details

2.35:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Dolby Digital 5.1 (English, French, Spanish)
Subtitles: English, French, Spanish
Closed Captioned; Extras Subtitled
Release Date: January 22, 2008
Single-sided, dual-layered disc (DVD-9)
Suggested Retail Price: $29.99
Black Keepcase Housed in Embossed Cardboard Slipcover
Also Available in Reformatted Fullscreen Edition DVD
and on Blu-ray Disc

VIDEO and AUDIO

The Game Plan was released this week in separate widescreen and fullscreen editions. As usual, I reviewed the former, which displayed neither wear nor other concerns in the anamorphic transfer that upholds the film's wide 2.35:1 theatrical aspect ratio. A Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack is offered in English, French, and Spanish. Aside from the ubiquitous score and its overeagerness to drown out dialogue, the track seemed fine, although I wasn't able to evaluate it on a full system. As is now the norm in 2008, Disney provides subtitles not only for the film but also for all bonus features.

If the film's lengthy ballet sequence wasn't long enough for you, then you may be pleased to find the deleted scenes include an even longer cut. The Rock smiles as Marv Albert sharpens his teeth narrating some bloopers given the Albert Achievement Awards treatment. Andy Fickman isn't shy up showing love to the people who give him work, hence the Walt Disney Studios cap he wears in "Drafting 'The Game Plan'."

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS and PACKAGING

The bonus features begin with nine deleted scenes that can be viewed individually or collectively, with (21:10) or without (16:00) intros from director Andy Fickman. He attributes most of the deletions to time,
Magazines.com, Inc.
which makes sense, since the film's already long for running close to two hours. However, there's also not a great deal of substance to be gained from these, which include some short moments and a 7-minute extended edit of the ballet performance.

The 3-minute "Bloopers with Marv Albert" applies the deviant sportscaster's well-known "Albert Achievement Awards" format to outtakes from the film. The narration and title cards don't really raise the entertainment value of the ordinary goof-ups.

"Drafting The Game Plan" (20:14) is a pretty solid general featurette. Though it provides the requisite praise from Fickman, producers, and cast, it also looks at the film's making in some interesting, even slightly candid ways. Among the things covered are The Rock's production-threatening Achilles injury, the various Rock football doubles, and the people behind the ballet sequence (for which we go backstage with a camera-toting Madison Pettis). Fragmented but fun, this is worth a view.

ESPN's Sean Salisbury lobs light, easy questions at The Rock. Stuart Scott brings his own booyah for the fake SportsCenter report "The King in Search of a Ring." Choose between the default menu look plus romantic and rock alternatives, or play an activity. It's all inside.

The supplements of determined runtimes come to a close with two ESPN SportsCenter pieces that capitalize on the most athletic channel in the Disney family. In "The Rock Learns to Play QB" (3:30), Sean Salisbury conducts a fluffy interview with star Johnson on the movie's physical challenges.
The Stuart Scott-hosted "The King in Search of a Ring" (5:00), specified as a DVD/Blu-ray Exclusive, treats the film's sports material as real, with "game footage" and slick in-character comments from cast members. It's well-made but kind of pointless/cheesy in this context instead of the excerpts we get in the film.

The menus are set in Joe's lush bachelor pad, where forceful score selections abound. The final two extras named on the rear cover get no listing on the disc, but they're both accessible from a Main Menu easter egg. Selecting the remote control summons a 4-icon extension. The first three let you toggle the main menu's lighting and music between romance, rock, and the default athletic motif for what the case calls The Universal "Mood" Remote Control Menus.

The fourth icon triggers the set-top activity Peyton's Makeover Madness, which allows you to "decorate" the room by choosing diamonds and colors. It shows you your creation with corresponding sound clips from Madison Pettis, but doesn't change the menu, making it best for the easily entertained and even then not so good.

In addition to all these features, the concurrently-issued Blu-ray Disc version of The Game Plan includes "Chalk Talk", an audio commentary with The Rock and Andy Fickman, which finds the star and director occasionally scribbling on the screen like a color commentator with a telestrator. Similar technology has been used on standard DVD with a subtitle track (see Sony's Men in Black), but even if that aspect remained exclusive to high-definition, space isn't enough of a concern for the audio to not be offered here. Likewise, an additional five minutes of deleted footage (three scenes) is found on the Blu-ray. Yet another move by Disney to encourage the Blu-ray upgrade so few are willing to make right now.

The disc opens with the impressive but contemporary-skewed Disney company promo, and then -- if you do nothing at the standard prompt of FastPlay versus Main Menu -- treats you to a Blu-ray promo, previews for 101 Dalmatians: Platinum Edition, WALL-E, and Enchanted, and a commercial for Disney Movie Rewards. If that doesn't satiate your appetite for advertising, then you'll be delighted by the Sneak Peeks menu which holds these plus looks at Tinker Bell, Snow Buddies, Twitches Too, and The Aristocats: Special Edition, and a mildly amusing ad for ESPN "SportsCenter"

Inside the case, which like all the studio's latest big screen flicks is housed in a snazzy cardboard slipcover, there's a Disney Movie Rewards code booklet, a chapter/extras insert that doubles as an ad for Disney sports films, and a booklet promoting -- you guessed it -- Disney Blu-ray Disc.

This type of movie wouldn't be complete without a big blender spill... ...or a heartwarming father-daughter couch moment.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

The title The Game Plan holds no special meaning to the movie it names, which in turn held no special meaning for me. The Rock is charismatic enough for being a WWF alum, but not he nor anyone else involved here is able to elevate this lamebrained vehicle to more than a story one feels has been told before and in a better way. For the most part, critics agreed with such an opinion but mainstream American moviegoers did not. I'm somewhat lost trying to figure out the appeal, even more so than I was on Wild Hogs and The Pacifier, fellow off-season Disney comedies that brought in crowds and left them pleased. I don't think that makes me a cynic, however, as much as it makes those lured in by heavy marketing campaigns in need of seeing more movies in order to recognize something derivative and lazy.

Disney's DVD meets today's expectations, delivering fine picture and sound plus a pretty reasonable slate of bonus features. There's room for the Blu-ray-exclusive commentary and additional deleted scenes here, but with or without them, this still isn't a DVD I'd come close to recommending. Though undiscerning families yearning for clean, harmless films might take to it, better taste and watching more movies would do a lot more good than adding Game Plan to the collection.

Buy The Game Plan from Amazon.com: Widescreen DVD / Fullscreen DVD / Blu-ray Disc

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Reviewed January 25, 2008.