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The Game Plan (2007)

Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment
DVD Released: 1/22/2008

All Ratings out of
Movie: 1/2
Audio: 1/2

Review by Mike Long, Posted on 1/15/2008

My wife is always applying for grants through her job for various projects. I've decided that I'm going to apply for a grant to research why there are always single-parent families in Disney movies. It's gotten to the point where it's simply ridiculous and if an alien were to watch only Disney films, they would believe that only one human raising a child is the norm. I've decided that it's a budgetary thing as one parent is cheaper to cast than two. Disney's new release The Game Plan continues this trend and ups the ante with absentee parents and dead relatives.

Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson stars in The Game Plan as professional football star Joe Kingman. Kingman is the quarterback for the Boston Rebels and he is a self-centered ego-maniac both on and off the field. He lives in a fancy apartment, drives a sports car, and loves the ladies. He gets along with this teammates, but he never fails to remind them who is in charge. Joe's life changes dramatically when an 8-year old girl named Peyton (Madison Pettis) arrives on Joe's doorstep. She explains that she is his daughter, as her mother is Joe's ex-wife. Peyton states that her mother was called away for an emergency in Africa and that Peyton wanted to get to know him. Joe is floored by this news, as he has no idea how to behave around a child. At first, he simply tries to insert Peyton into his daily routine, but he finds that nearly impossible, as she can't help but get into everything. To make matters worse, the Rebels have just entered the playoffs and Joe really needs to concentrate on his playing. Can this selfish, macho man learn to love this child?

The Game Plan is an ironic name for this movie as it appears that a concrete game plan was not in hand when the film was being made, as it's all over the place. This is a fairly standard Disney comedy in the tradition of The Parent Trap or Freaky Friday, as it features a lot of physical comedy combined with many emotional moments. And yet, something has gone horribly wrong in the structuring of this film. In short (no pun intended), The Game Plan is simply too long. At 110 minutes, the movie simply goes on and on rehashing every main point over and over. Within minutes, we grasp the idea that Joe is self-centered and arrogant, but the movie continues to pile on example after example of this. He doesn't trust the other players to win the game, he dates several women at once, he's more concerned about his image than anything else. I'm not sure why The Game Plan didn't think that we'd grasp this. Then, once Peyton arrives, the movie becomes a series of scenes showing how precocious this child is. I think that most of us got that after she "Bedazzled" Joe's cherished football. But, no we are treated to many scenes of Peyton hijinks. After the first hour, I wasn't sure where the movie was going, as it seemed to be getting nowhere.

There's also the question of the film's content. As the film is a Disney movie featuring an 8-year old girl, one would assume that the film would appeal to 8-year old girls. But, The Game Plan attempts to go much further than that. In fact, it may go too far. There's enough talk of divorces, dead relatives, unplanned children, serial dating, endorsement deals, and food allergies to fill any drama aimed at adults. I realize that all of these issues are "real world" issues, but should they be stuffed in a movie aimed at kids? I watched the movie with my children and my 8-year old girl said that it had too much "grown up stuff" in it. And I haven't even brought up all of the gratuitous football footage.

However, it would be unfair to say that The Game Plan doesnít have some positive attributes. In The Gridiron Gang, Dwayne Johnson showed that he could tackle (pun intended) serious material. That talent grows in The Game Plan, as he balances the tender moments with goofy gags like a seasoned pro. I wonít go as far as to say that heís a great actor, but compared to others who started their careers as action stars, heís come a long way in a very short time. He definitely has a stage presence and an instant likeability which are undeniable. Due to this, his character is very believable, and this draws the viewer into the film. And I have to say that while most of The Game Plan is very predictable, there is a plot twist in the third act which is heart-wrenching and it actually saves the movie from collapsing under its own weight.

The Game Plan pulls a double-reverse on DVD courtesy of Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment. The film has come to DVD in two separate editions, one widescreen and the other full-frame. For the purposes of this review, only the widescreen version was viewed. The film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the transfer is enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. The image looks fairly good, as it is sharp and clear, showing basically no grain and no defects from the source material. The colors look good here, especially the red jerseys against the green football field and the pastels associated with Peyton. The framing appears to be accurate and the image is never dark. However, some shots lacked in detail and I noted some mild artifacting during the football scenes. The DVD has a Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track which provides clear dialogue and sound effects. Being a family film, the audio effects arenít overwhelming, but there is a nice amount of crowd noise from the rear speakers during the game and a few of the tackles generate a response from the subwoofer.

The Game Plan DVD has a locker room full of extras. There are 12 DELETED SCENES which can be viewed with or without introductions by Director Andy Fickman and run about 25 minutes (with intros). There some interesting moments here, including some which expound on some elements from the movie which seem to disappear, but there are no new subplots or characters here. There is a 3 minute BLOOPER REEL. "Drafting The Game Plan" (20 minutes) is a fairly standard making-of featurette, as it offers interviews with the cast and filmmakers, on-set footage and clips. It examines the casting of Dwayne Johnson and Madison Pettis, director Andy Fickman, training for football, and the ballet scenes. "ESPN Sportscenter: The King in Search of a Ring" (5 minutes) is the extended version of a TV biography glimpsed in the movie. "ESPN Sportscenter: The Rock Learns to Play QB" (3 minutes) has a segment from Sportscenter where Johnson was interviewed on-set. "Peyton's Makeover Madness" is a set-top game which allows you to decorate parts of Joe's apartment.

Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment has also brought The Game Plan to Blu-ray Disc. This release has a 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 17 Mbps. The image here shows some subtle improvements over the DVD. The image is very sharp and clear, showing no grain and a nice amount of depth. The colors are nice, as the blacks are deep and rich, and the colors never bleed into one another. The image shows a great amount of detail and close inspection shows no video noise. The audio here is a 5.1 PCM uncompressed track which runs at 48 kHz and 6.9 Mbps. Even with that high bitrate, I was disappointed in the audio. The sound is very detailed and we get more subtle noises from the front channels compared to what is heard on the DVD, but the surround sound and bass are only slightly better. Iím chalking this up to the fact that the effects are toned down on most family movies. (With the Pixar films being the exception. Have you heard the Rataouille Blu-ray?)

The Game Plan Blu-ray Disc contains one extra which isn't found on the DVD. It's an AUDIO COMMENTARY from Director Andy Fickman and Dwayne Johnson. It's called "Chalk Talk" because the two use a "Telestrator" as seen on televised football games, where they pause the film and draw circles around important things on-screen. This is certainly interesting, but since they are pausing the movie, the version of the movie runs some 17 minutes longer than viewing it normally. That aside, they have a good time with this and we learn a great deal about the making of the film. They keep things pretty simple, as they clearly assume that younger viewers will be checking this out.

Review Copyright 2008 by Mike Long