The Game Plan **
After his film career began floundering, action star Vin Diesel turned to the family audience with The Pacifier and ended up with a $113 million hit. Along the same lines, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson now throws himself on the mercy of the small fry and their easy-to-please parental units with The Game Plan, an innocuous mediocrity whose biggest sin is its punishing running time. Rocky stars as Joe Kingman, a narcissistic quarterback who’s blindsided when 8-year-old Peyton (Madison Pettis) shows up on his doorstep claiming to be his daughter. Livin’ la vida loca with a lavishly designed bachelor pad, a European model for a girlfriend, and a flashy sports car to complement his lifestyle of the rich and famous, Joe (whose clunky gridiron nickname is “Never Say No Joe”) learns that in order to become an effective parent (which he does so begrudgingly), he has to accept a pink tutu being placed on his bulldog, his football trophies getting BeDazzled, and his mode of transport getting downsized to a station wagon. Considering that The Game Plan holds next to no surprises for anyone who’s ever seen a movie before, a 90-minute length would have been plenty; instead, this gets mercilessly stretched out to 110 minutes. The extra footage allows the mind to wander and mull over related topics; for instance, since Kingman plays quarterback for the fictitious Boston Rebels and has to contend with a child from a former lover, is this a dig at New England Patriots QB Tom Brady, whose double-dipping among women has led to out-of-wedlock woes? And was there ever a chance that Kingman’s bulldog might have fallen into the hands of Michael Vick? And will a soggy comedy ever resist the slightly racist urge to include a muscular, fearsome black man (White America, lock your doors!) who turns out to be a crybaby by the end? (In addition to Kingman’s teammate here, see also Ving Rhames in I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry, Michael Clarke Duncan in See Spot Run, etc.). Pettis mostly relies on calculated precociousness, but Johnson actually displays modest but sufficient amounts of charisma and comic timing. His acceptable work here turns out to be the most Rock-solid element of the film.