The Rock/Dwayne Johnson and Vin Diesel have a lot in common in terms of their careers. Both made their splash in a sci-fi/fantasy movie, moved into exciting, generic action, and then dropped off when they tried to make a run for the family genre. For Diesel, it was the embarrassing Pacifier, and for The Rock, it’s the miserable The Game Plan.
Dwayne Johnson is Joe Kingman, the horribly clichéd pro athlete bent on impressing everyone he meets. His house is filled with massive pictures of himself to let everyone know how great he is. The pathetic writing leads to ridiculous lines performed as well as they can be by Johnson, putting out a typical charismatic performance yet sidelined with sub-par material.
Kyra Sedgwick isn’t even trying as his agent, and it feels like she belongs in a no-budget cartoon as the villain. Madison Pettis is fine for a child actress, playing the rambunctious kid thrown into Johnson’s life unexpectedly. Her behavior strains the viewer for laughs, and originality ranges somewhere around nil. This movie has been done repeatedly, and The Game Plan brings nothing new.
Football scenes are brief and have a nice look to them, but like the rest of this one, there is nothing here that hasn’t been done before. The attempt at authenticity with full ESPN sponsorship is welcome, yet pointless in a light comedy that’s hardly gunning for authenticity.
The predictable romance between Johnson and Roselyn Sanchez is touched on, and mercifully given minor screen time. Underrated is Paige Turco, given one of the only serious roles in the movie as the caretaker of the child. Her interaction with Johnson offers a brief glimpse at an attempt at emotion, and this is a rare moment where the film is successful at something.
A few laughs are a given even in this grating attempt at family comedy. Johnson puts himself through a lot here, donning tights, dousing himself in bubbles, singing like an idiot, and playing with a group of little girls as he takes Pettis on a shopping trip. It’s hardly enough to recommend this 110-minute clunker, as the laughs are spread thin and the story lands on predictability within the first couple of scenes. Dwayne Johnson owes it to himself to pick better scripts.
The DVD transfer is a sharp one. Close-ups offer plenty of detail, and the football scenes can easily match up to the level of a HD cable broadcast. Compression artifacts are nicely under control. Slight background noise along with a few darker scenes that come off muddy keep this one from perfection.
Audio is actually a disappointment. While mostly dialogue driven, the few game sequences should light up the sound field. Instead, the crowd behind the action is subdued and lifeless. A few hits produce mild bass, though not the crunching, deep kind typically used in sports movies to sell the blow.
A fun set of extra features begins with nine deleted scenes running over 21 minutes when you include the introductions by Andy Fickman. Always funny outtakes are hosted by Marv Albert, coming in at an even three minutes. Drafting the Game Plan is your standard studio making of piece, and feels promotional for most its 20 minute run time.
Sportscenter – The Rock Learns to Play QB is a piece that aired on ESPN on how Johnson transformed from a defensive player in college to a QB for this role. It’s brief, yet doesn’t have the expected feel that this was promoting the film. King in Search of a Ring is a dull extra featuring Johnson in character, along with others speaking to him as if Kingman were real. In a nice touch, you can play with the main menu and change the decorations or lighting.
From here on out, The Rock is no longer. He will be credited as Dwayne Johnson in all upcoming features, fully separating him from his WWE persona. That, or he’s trying to put this travesty behind him.