The Game Plan

Some reviews and summaries of “The Game Plan” will refer to Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson’s character as an NFL quarterback. This is incorrect. He plays for the Boston Rebels, which of course is not a real NFL team. (It seems to me that “Rebels” calls to mind the Southern states in the Civil War more than it does the American revolutionaries of 1776, but never mind.) The Rebels’ opponents are carefully referred to by their city, never by team name. And the big game at the end of January — which in real life would be the Super Bowl — is just called the “championship game.” In other words, the most likely scenario is that the NFL wouldn’t let Disney use any of its teams, logos, or trademarks.

I mention this because how bad does a movie have to be for an organization that employs mostly felons and miscreants, and which will put its name on just about anything, to want nothing to do with it?

This is the kind of movie that Disney used to make a lot of back in the day: live-action, simple-minded, aimed at children, and kind of stupid. The difference is that at least the old movies usually had a goofy supernatural element to them, like donkeys kicking field goals, or boys turning into dogs, or Tommy Kirk being interested in girls. “The Game Plan” is allegedly set in the real world, with the normal laws of physics and logic being applied … which makes it disappointing when nothing makes sense anyway.

Former wrestler/current Vin Diesel impersonator Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson plays star Rebels quarterback Joe Kingman, a narcissistic showboater who makes full use of his swingin’ bachelor pad and his millions of dollars of discretionary income. His life is turned upside-down, and he learns valuable lessons about What’s Really Important, when he finds out two things: 1) he has an 8-year-old daughter; 2) he has to take care of her for a month.

The girl is named Peyton (Madison Pettis), and since this is a Disney movie, Joe was actually married to her mother years ago: She was newly pregnant when the divorce became final, and she never told Joe about it. Now she’s run off to Africa on a humanitarian mission and dumped Peyton at his apartment, without notice, accompanied only by a letter informing him of her existence and asking him to take care of her for a month. If you see a lot of implausibilities in this situation and immediately start questioning things, then you are smarter than the characters in the movie, who just sort of go, “Really? Huh. That’s weird,” and then forget about it. That includes Joe’s conniving, no-nonsense agent (Kyra Sedgwick), who really should be smarter.

Peyton is a precocious 8-year-old (I believe “precocious” is the only style of 8-year-old that Disney produces) with a fondness for classical music, ballet, and TV shows about ponies. Needless to say, she totally wrecks super-manly Joe’s lifestyle! She puts a tutu on his dog! She takes a bubble bath that fills the whole bathroom with bubbles! She leaves her doll on the floor, and stepping on it causes Joe — the most athletically gifted football player in America — to slip frantically and land flat on his face!

Peyton demands that Joe enroll her in a local ballet class, led by a fiery Latina named Monique (Roselyn Sanchez) who has never heard of Joe and likes it that way. For some reason, Joe winds up being IN the ballet, presumably because it is automatically “funny” (note to self: check definition of that word) to see The Rock wearing tights.

In another scene, Peyton gives Joe a cookie she baked, a snickerdoodle. He eats the whole thing, noting as he does so that something doesn’t seem right. Afterward, he asks what was in it. Peyton says, “Well, milk, sugar, cinammon –” “Cinammon?!” he cries. “I’m allergic to cinnamon!!” Then why did you eat an entire cookie whose defining ingredient is cinnamon, jackass? Cinnamon is plainly visible in the texture of the cookie. Its flavor is not subtle. And yet you ate the whole thing.

(Don’t worry, though: The only way his cinnamon allergy manifests itself is that it makes him lisp — and on the day he’s recording a TV commercial, too! Oh, no!! What next?! This whole parenthood thing is harder than it looks!)

The derivative screenplay (by first-timers Nichole Millard and Kathryn Price) eventually gives way to mawkish, sappy sentiment as Joe and Peyton bond and Joe can’t imagine his life without her. Director Andy Fickman (of the unforgivably bad Amanda Bynes vehicle “She’s the Man”) accentuates the faux whimsy wherever possible and uses Nathan Wang’s overly precious musical score as a cudgel with which to beat viewers senseless.

To its credit, the film will probably be a reasonably entertaining diversion for children and their easily amused parents. Please understand, however, that this is not the same thing as being “good” or “well-made” or even “tolerable.” Making a fort out of the couch cushions is fun for kids, too, but I wouldn’t pay 10 bucks to watch them do it.

(Note: This movie contains a scene of Kyra Sedgwick farting.)

D (1 hr., 50 min.; PG, Kyra Sedgwick farting.)