Joe Kingman is an professional quarterback whose gridiron agility and powerhouse muscles are only eclipsed by his superstar ego. He lives in a pristinely kept, multimillion dollar penthouse that's essentially a huge trophy case filled with a lifetime of awards—and Elvis memorabilia. There are three truths in his life: He loves himself. He loves being the king of his domain. And above all else, he loves football!
Joe and his Boston team did well this year and are on the verge of becoming conference champions. And the thirtysomething pro is determined that this will be his year. But then 8-year-old Peyton shows up on his doorstep claiming to be his daughter from a brief marriage that dissolved, well, eight years and, um, nine months ago. This is not an amenable situation! After all, the only thing a kid could do for Joe is wreck—or, at the very least, hamper—his playoff dreams. But the girl's mom is apparently gone on a month-long humanitarian mission to Africa and can't be reached.
So the annoyed athlete reluctantly lets Peyton stay, instructing his mover-and-shaker agent, Stella, to fix things. In light of some big-league endorsement deals, Stella suggests that Joe keep things low-key and at least pretend to be a good dad for the cameras until the girl's mom returns home. Easier said than done. Especially since Peyton is a bright little kid with some manipulative plans of her own.
The Game Plan speaks very clearly about the value of children and the importance of good parenting. One of Joe's family-man teammates mentions that Joe's single, playboy lifestyle is empty. With the experience of taking care of Peyton, Joe eventually realizes that his friend is right and that his love for his daughter is more important than anything else.
Peyton is very conscious of things that she knows could be harmful for her, including fatty foods, air bags in front car seats and mean words. Peyton's dancing instructor talks to Joe about the value of moms and dads and encourages him by telling him that dads can give their kids the "courage to do the things" they never knew they could. Joe finds an unmailed letter from Peyton's mom that explains why she never told him about his daughter: She was afraid that he would reject the girl. The letter goes on to ask for forgiveness for this "selfish choice."
Joe has his shirt off in several scenes—while exercising, while changing in the locker room and when wrapped in only a towel. After a rubdown, he flirts with a woman by flexing his pecs. (She isn't impressed.)
The athlete dons a revealing unitard to dance with his daughter's ballet class. In that same scene, the class's female teacher is dressed in a form-fitting, cleavage-enhancing leotard. A number of women are dressed in low-cut dresses at several party events. A woman is called a "hottie."
There are a few times when football players are hit hard and knocked to the ground by large opponents. But lighthearted pratfalls rule. For instance, Joe trips over his daughter's doll and lands facedown in the carpet. And a blender blasts its contents into his face.
Crude or Profane Language
The Game Plan is geared for family eyes and ears. The strongest language is the use of the phrase "pain in the butt" and the repeated use of the word "stupid." (And even then, each time it's said, we're reminded that "stupid" is a "mean word.")
Drug and Alcohol Content
Adults are seen drinking what appears to be mixed drinks in two different party scenes. In order to manipulate her father, Peyton threatens to say he gave her a margarita.
Other Negative Elements
Peyton essentially lies to get to meet her dad—but she eventually admits her wrongdoing and makes a very unselfish choice, even though it could result in her losing all she's gained. Her father, on the other hand, also lies—with no apparent consequence.
Stella passes gas after eating burgers Peyton warned her away from.
At this very minute there's a bottomless stomach sprawled on the rug next to my back door. That's Betty's spot. She's a muggly-looking, walleyed little bulldog that usually has a pervasive aroma (falling somewhere between wet gym socks and decomposition). She ruins my grass and growls at my neighbor's pets. But for all her faults, she's cute. You can't walk by her without smiling or wanting to ruffle her furry ears.
The Game Plan is that kind of cinematic mutt. The acting is just OK—in spite of the fact that ex-wrestler Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson tries hard to make things feel sincere, and young Madison Pettis is sometimes endearingly precocious. The story of a big tough guy getting rolled by a charming kid is worn. The script's slapstick yuks are lame. And the football action appears so staged that I thought the offensive line might break into a musical number at any moment.
But you still can't resist wanting to ruffle the film's furry ears, and you can't walk out of the theater without smiling. The Game Plan takes the seldom-trod high road when revealing Joe's unknown daughter: Surprise! She wasn't conceived out of wedlock. Then it goes on to show how a self-centered man works to become a love-centered dad. And there are just enough grins and plucked heartstrings to keep families connected and happy.