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Disney treatment

Movies | Predictable Game Plan says much about its maker

Issue: "Mission: Impossible?," Oct. 13, 2007

The Walt Disney company can usually be relied upon to satisfy parents who want films without swearing, violence, or nudity in them. Sometimes-as in the case of the Pixar films-they find a studio that produces artistically beautiful work without any objectionable content. In the case of The Game Plan (rated PG), however, they've managed to produce a film that is both squeaky clean (there's one lonely potty joke over the 110-minute running time) and nearly unwatchable.

There's not a single drug, swear word, or hint of sex in the life of star quarterback Joe Kingman (Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson), but we understand from the beginning that Joe is a selfish dude who parties too hard, possibly by staying up past his bedtime. Enter Peyton (Madison Pettis), a child from Joe's defunct marriage who has run away from ballet school to find her clueless Dad. Joe has lived in blissful ignorance of Peyton's existence until now; when the 7-year-old girl sets up shop in his opulent bachelor pad, though, he has to adjust, and to decide whether to support a soulless chain of burger joints selling unhealthy food to kids.

If any part of the story that will proceed from this setup remains a mystery to you, you are probably of an age to enjoy The Game Plan. If you are old enough to have figured out whether Joe will learn not to be so selfish, you will probably appreciate some of the film's more sophisticated ironies, like the Dunkin' Donuts product placement in the middle of this children's film about the evils of marketing fast food to children. It's possible to mine that one for hours, in fact-raise your hand if you've ever taken your kids to McDonald's because they wanted the Disney toys in the Happy Meal.

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With The Game Plan, Disney will take the money of parents who want to protect their children from the corruption of the world, and then, under the names Buena Vista, ABC, and Touchstone-all owned by Disney-they will use that money to expose kids to those same corruptions. It's already at the top of the weekend box office.

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