There are times when trailers are misleading, and the movie is vastly superior or way worse than anticipated.
Walt Disney’s latest film “The Game Plan” is not one of those films.
If you’ve seen the ads, you can pretty much figure out how this predictable family fare plays out. “The Game Plan” is so by the numbers that it’s a credit to the film’s lead, former WWE wrestler Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, that it is almost tolerable.
Johnson plays Joe Kingman, a narcissistic professional quarterback enjoying the fame and caught up in the bachelor lifestyle.
Kingman’s world takes a drastic turn when an 8-year-old girl named Peyton (Madison Pettis) shows up on his doorstep claiming to be his daughter.
It’s not hard to predict what happens from there, with Kingman and Peyton trying to bond and make up for lost time. Nichole Millard and Kathryn Price’s screenplay is standard family fluff, complete with moments that try to shatter the cuteness meter and a not-too-subtle message about the importance of family.
Johnson nearly makes this all watchable. Anyone familiar with his work in wrestling will realize that playing Kingman really isn’t a stretch, but give Johnson credit for poking fun at himself. Johnson continues to prove that he is capable of carrying a feature film with his charismatic charm. The camera loves Johnson and it appears that Johnson is having fun in front of the camera.
But even Johnson can’t overcome the major flaw in “The Game Plan” - Pettis. The young actress tries so hard to be cute and adorable, she is annoying. It doesn’t help that her character delivers lines that makes her sound more like a nuclear physicist and not an 8-year-old. Pettis is so overbearing that she makes Jonathan Lipnicki from “Jerry Maguire” seem like an Oscar nominee.
There are moments where “The Game Plan” works, mostly involving Johnson, but for the most part, this is a forgettable film that won’t even matter come October.
DVD dandy of the week
This week’s dandy is “Reign Over Me” (A-), writer/director Mike Binder’s effective follow-up to his outstanding 2005 film “The Upside of Anger.”
Don Cheadle plays Alan Johnson, a dentist with a great family and job, who is just going through the motions with no apparent joy whatsoever in his life.
Alan’s world gets a jolt one day when he runs into his old college roommate, Charlie Fineman (Adam Sandler). To say Charlie’s world is in disarray is an understatement. Charlie has regressed into a sheltered world, trying to deal with the loss of his wife and three children in the Sept. 11 attacks.
After the encounter, Alan attempts to help Charlie overcome his grief, but the process proves difficult for both men, who have clearly isolated themselves in one form or another. Charlie’s isolation is more obvious; Alan’s is a subtle withdrawal from his family and coworkers.
As in his previous film, Binder does an excellent job of creating interesting characters with compelling stories, sprinkling in some humorous moments. The characters are given life by a talented cast.
I’ve always considered Don Cheadle an underrated actor, and he doesn’t disappoint here. Sandler is just as good - the former Saturday Night Live comedian has shown his range in films like “Punch-Drunk Love” and “Spanglish,” but he may be at his best here as Charlie.
I had a hard time buying Liv Tyler as a psychiatrist at first, but she settles into the role and is actually pretty good. Donald Sutherland has a great small role in the film as a judge.
“Reign” does have flaws, mainly a subplot involving a female patient who threatens Alan with a sexual harassment suit, but it doesn’t hinder the film’s overall effectiveness. This isn’t quite on par with “Anger” (which featured an Oscar-worthy performance from Joan Allen), but is still a film that deserves to find an audience on home video.
“Reign Over Me” is rated R for language and some sexual references and will be available Tuesday on DVD.