- The Washington Times - Sunday, September 30, 2007

Common Sense Media, a nonprofit group dedicated to improving the entertainment lives of families, provides reviews of the latest movies from a parenting perspective. For more reviews, click on www.commonsensemedia.org.

‘The Game Plan’

Rating: PG

Common Sense Media: On. For ages 6 and older.

***(out of five stars)

Running time: 115 minutes

Common Sense review: For years, Hollywood has been making movies in which anti-maternal women are saddled with children and become better people. Well, switch the driven career woman for a football player, throw him into some ballet tights, and you have “The Game Plan” — an adorable, if predictable, family movie from Disney.

NFL star Joe Kingman (Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson) thinks a lot of himself. He calls himself “the king,” has giant pictures of himself around the house, proudly displays his collection of trophies and works hard to make sure everyone else loves him, too. He’s also on the verge of having the biggest year in his career.

Before long, adorably doe-eyed and curly-haired Peyton (Madison Pettis) shows up at Joe’s door all but swaddled and pinned with a note from the stork. Surprise, Joe — you have a daughter.

For a month, Joe has to figure out how to be a dad, prepare for the playoffs and defend his way of life. When Peyton gets seriously sick and returns home, can Joe go back to his playboy life? Does he even want to?

The answer should be obvious. What Disney always does well — and what it does well here again — is to create a world of safe adults in which children can have their adventures. The other thing Disney does perfectly in “The Game Plan” is squeeze every last bit of cute from every scene. The Rock clearly has fun with all of his character’s funny faces, funny voices and tantrums — and so does the audience.

There’s so much that’s genuinely adorable in this film that it’s easy to overlook such small problems as the predictable story line. What’s harder to forgive is the frequent product placement. “The Game Plan” pokes fun at athletes who all but plaster brands on their jerseys, but it manages to showcase more than a dozen products.

Still, this is a film with a great message. Essentially, Joe learns to share — share success, share his house, share his heart. What child doesn’t need to learn that lesson?

Common Sense note: Parents need to know that this cute family comedy features football violence and pratfalls. Peyton runs away to find her father and ends up in some mildly perilous situations.

Families can talk about why children want to see this movie — because of the story or because of Disney’s marketing campaign? Families also can discuss the importance of telling the truth and being generous. Why does Joe feel differently about his game after spending time with Peyton? Also, parents, remind children about why they need to stay with safe adults and not run off on their own, as Peyton does.

Violence alert: Lots of football-related roughness, including sacks, tackles and close-up shots of Joe being taken down. Joe breaks a rib and hurts his shoulder. Joe slaps another player and accidentally bumps into dancers, knocking them down and dropping others.

Social-behavior alert: Peyton runs away from home and lies. Joe forgets Peyton in a club. Joe is initially selfish but eventually learns to share and think of others first.

Drug/alcohol/tobacco alert: Adults drink at a party, but they don’t appear drunk. Peyton shows she knows what a margarita is.

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