Friday, January 04, 2008

THE GAME PLAN: Dwayne Really Rocks!

THE GAME PLAN (family comedy)

Cast: Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson, Roselyn Sanchez, Kyra Sedgwick, Morris Chestnut and Madison Pettis
Director: Andy Fickman
Time: 95 mins
Rating: * * * (out of 4)

(Pic: Johnson & Madison Pettis)
WHAT'S THE BIG DEAL? Arnie Schwarzenegger did it in "Kindergarten Cop", Vin Diesel did it in "The Pacifier", and Hulk Hogan in "Mr Nanny". In Hollywood's tradition of pitting celebrity tough guys against cute little kids, we have Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson being thrown into the domestic minefield of this "Game Plan" that obviously follows the Disney family comedy formula.Yes, this 'Game Plan' is highly predictable stuff, and many of the gags look contrived.

The main question is: Can The Rock pull it off as a comedy actor without having to strain those facial muscles of his? The answer is yes! Unlike Hogan and Diesel, Johnson is flexible enough as a performer to take on such a demanding role - and he even manages to charm us in the process.

WHAT'S IT ABOUT? Johnson is Joe Kingman, star quarterback of the Boston Rebels who has led his team into the football playoffs. He is big on talent and even bigger on ego, calling himself 'The King' - after his pop idol, Elvis Presley. As the top player, Joe has everything - the latest Mercedes sports car, a posh apartment, great friends and women swooning after him. He also has an eight-year-old daughter he doesn't know about. Peyton (Madison Pettis) shows up at Joe's doorstep one day, with proof of his paternity and tells him that he has to put her up for one month while her mum is on an overseas trip. Joe's new parental duties upset everything in his life, and those of his team members and agent Stella Peck (Kyra Sedgwick) as well. These changes in Joe's routine, which are in conflict with his plug for a burger brand, offers some light moments and a few hearty laughs as our People's Champion tries to adapt to his new role as Daddy.

HITS & MISSES: Director Andy Fickman and his scripters go for the jugular as they try to squeeze every opportunity for comedy out of The Rock. One of the funniest scenes has footballer Joe donning tights for a ballet performance with Peyton and her ballet teacher Monique (Roselyn Sanchez). Why, there are also intimations of sexual attractions between Joe and Monique who, incidentally, is unimpressed by the man's football credentials. Thankfully, Fickman puts this love interest subplot aside in favour of story flow, concentrating on the heart-to-heart scenes between Johnson and Madison.

Basically, "The Game Plan" works because of the chemistry between the father and newfound daughter. Fickman opts for spontaneity rather than 'forced comedy' and we can even overlook certain scenes that seem contrived. This includes a sequence in which Joe sings an Elvis number ('Are You Lonesome Tonight') to pacify his little girl and win her heart. No parent in the audience can fault Johnson for his effort.Having established the bond between Joe and Peyton, the climactic sequence - in which Joe's team competes for the championship - seems redundant, with its outcome a foregone conclusion. It is obviously to satisfy football fans in the audience and to wrap up the comedy with the usual feel-good tugs at our heart-strings. Anyway, we can afford to be indulgent with The Rock and his love for Elvis' songs at the closing credits

THE LOWDOWN: It is what you'd expect of a Disney comedy and you will walk out of the cineplex with the tune of 'hunka, hunka burning love' burning in your mind...


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