out of Five
Running time: 110
Watchable comedy that manages to overcome its formulaic plot and cliche-laden script, largely thanks to Johnson being such a likeable comic actor.
What's it all about?
Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson plays American football pro Joe Kingman, who's completely self-obsessed and a selfish player on the field to boot. However, when 8-year-old Peyton (Madison Pettis) shows up on his doorstep claiming to be the daughter he never knew he had, Joe suddenly has to start caring for someone else besides himself.
Joe's lack of fatherhood experience quickly gets him into trouble when he leaves Peyton behind in a nightclub, sending his workaholic agent (Kyra Sedgwick) into damage control overdrive. Meanwhile, Joe tries to bond with his daughter by taking her to ballet classes.
Cliches and all, it's still surprisingly watchable, and this is entirely due to Johnson's charismatic performance - he's such a likeable comic actor that we can't help but smile, even when he's really overdoing it. He's also more than happy to send himself up, with the result that the ballet sequences where he's wearing a tutu are genuinely amusing.
There's also strong support from Pettis (a surprisingly likeable child actor for once) and Kyra Sedgwick has fun as the wise-cracking agent, though Roselyn Sanchez (from Without A Trace) is largely wasted as the tacked-on love interest.
The plot is almost entirely predictable (although they do manage to sneak one genuine surprise into the mix towards the end) and duly trots out all the usual cliches, from the heart-warming father-daughter bonding moments right down to the climactic football game being won in the final seconds. Similarly, the film is a good 20 minutes too long and threatens to outstay its welcome towards the end.
The thing about cliches is that when they're properly assembled, they can actually work and that's exactly what happens in The Game Plan, thanks to assured direction and Johnson's hugely charismatic performance. Worth seeing for the ballet scenes alone.