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The Game Plan

By Wendy Wheeler

The Game Plan (2007) was one of my favorite movies to watch as a kid, and I still watch it a few times a year to this day. It’s an adorable little Dwayne Johnson comedy about Joe Kingman, the Boston Rebels’ premiere quarterback who, at a career turning point, abruptly discovers he has an 8-year-old daughter, Peyton, played by newcomer Madison Pettis, when she shows up on his doorstep and demands to stay for a month. It’s a truly heartwarming story about family, fatherhood, and learning to care about others more than yourself.


This very specific type of family-oriented comedy was so successful that many other movies have been copying its formula ever since. The Tooth Fairy (2010) is one, which funnily enough also stars Dwayne Johnson. The most notable imitator is 2019’s Playing with Fire, which I couldn’t help but notice has many scenes eerily similar to exact sequences from The Game Plan. But even while imitating its comedy, these movies never quite match The Game Plan where it really shines – in its emotional core about the importance of families.

Joe never knew he had a daughter until Peyton randomly appeared that fateful day, so he is wholly unprepared to be a father. He counts on the help of his friends and associates, like Kyra Sedgwick (The Closer) as his self-serving agent Stella,

his fellow teammates Brian J. White and Hayes McArther

as Webber and Cooper,

and Peyton’s ballet teacher, Monique Vasquez, played by

Roselyn Sanchez (Fantasy Island/Rush Hour 2), all of whom give

picture-perfect performances. And while Monique teaches Joe what it means to be a partner parent, no one helps Joe understand fatherhood more than Sanders, played by Morris Chestnut (The Enemy Within), as another teammate who is a father himself.

Despite the film being about “the power of the father,” Peyton has two very important mother figures in this movie, played by Roselyn Sanchez and Paige Turco. Both accomplished women in their own right, they truly care for this little girl with all their hearts, and they help guide Peyton to make good choices for herself. But Peyton is a very headstrong little spitfire, and even though she loves the women who help her in her life, she won’t let anyone stop her from doing what she knows to be right, finding her dad and fighting to keep him in her life.

The movie is cute, charming, and genuinely funny, and drives home how imperative family ties are to living a happy, healthy life. The soundtrack is also surprisingly good, with character themes subtly woven into incidental music and well-placed contemporary hits that really add to the experience, and makes the emotional scenes all the more impactful. If you and your kids are looking for something new to watch (or re-watch together for the first time), I would recommend you hop on Disney+ and give this great little movie a chance.


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Unknown member
Aug 13, 2022

I had never seen this movie. Read this review and then watched it with my eight-year-old son. We loved it!

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