The Game Plan Blu-ray Review

You might be able to smell what The Rock is cookin’, but if you’re like most members of the movie-going public, you probably never smelled a touching family comedy headed for Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson’s resume. Yet here we are, having just watched The Rock’s latest outing, The Game Plan, courtesy of Disney Home Entertainment, a film that’s got football and a football star at its core but that manages to make The Rock shed a tear because of his love for his on-screen daughter.

Yes, I’m serious.

The Game Plan is a unique coming-of-age story in which Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson plays an All-Pro quarterback named Joe Kingman who’s so full of himself that his entire 6,000-square-foot condo is devoted to photos and memorabilia of himself (and Elvis). Within 10 minutes it’s clear that Kingman’s ego is too big even for that monstrosity of a home, which makes his transformation into a loving father that much more dramatic. Kingman learns early in the film that he has an eight-year-old daughter from a previous marriage, and the majority of the movie is spent chronicling The Rock’s evolution from a egomaniacal QB to a loving father who even goes so far as to don a tutu and perform in his daughter’s ballet. The Rock in a skin-tight tutu is probably grounds enough for ladies to watch the film, while men will enjoy the repeated football scenes. (In light of the New England Patriots getting upset in the Super Bowl, seeing a Boston-based football team, even a fictional one, winning its games will be particularly welcome for some.)

The Game Plan Blu-ray Review

Although The Game Plan recently released on Blu-ray Disc, I didn’t expect any multimedia greatness. After all, outside of Pixar films, few family-friendly movies have great picture or audio quality. I was wrong. Not only is The Game Plan’s AVC-encoded video outstanding for a family film, its overall quality is top-notch for ay Blu-ray Disc release, even counting big-budget action and sci-fi films. The football scenes look phenomenal in high-definition on Blu-ray Disc, easily better than anything you’d see on satellite or on the NFL Network. The football scenes aren’t alone, though, as the rest of the film looks just as good, with deep blacks, vibrant highlights and nary an instance of film grain.

The audio is good as well, although the nature of the movie doesn’t really provide much of a benchmark for the uncompressed 5.1 48kHz/24-bit track. Sure, the football sequences and whiplash-inducing tackles provide nice audio, but watching The Rock make a protein shake or seeing him shake his bon bon around a ballet stage aren’t exactly pushing the limits of those surround-sound speakers.

A nice roster of bonus features, though, by and large do the producers proud. The movie’s Deleted Scenes (HD) include nearly 20 minutes of additional and deleted footage spread across 12 scenes, each of which has its own optional 30-second introduction explaining either why it was cut or its overall concept/purpose. It’s not often you see a deleted scenes feature this robust, and I’ve got to hand it to Disney Home Entertainment for not only including so many scenes, but giving the intro treatment to each of them.

Like the deleted scenes, the Bloopers (HD, 2:58) in The Game plan are also a bit different. Not only do they provide much more than simply outbursts of laughter (although those are definitely there among all the missed cues, script misfires and prop mishaps), but each blooper includes its own play-by-play commentary by Marv Albert. The effect is part sports show and part America’s Funniest Home Videos, so the cheese factor is quite strong, but it’s still a nice overall change from the uninspired bloopers included on most Blu-ray releases.

Drafting The Game Plan (20:13, 1080i) is the traditional behind-the-scenes feature, but it’s divided into two unofficial but very different halves. The first portion of this bonus feature focuses on the actors and their inspiration for each main character. The second half, however, focuses on the choreography of the action on the football field and on the ballet stage, providing some nice insight into stunt doubles and whatnot for The Rock after minor surgery immediately before production began.

The King in Search of a Ring (4:59, 1080i), a Blu-ray Disc exclusive feature, is a fake ESPN profile hosted by Stuart Scott that chronicles Joe Kingman’s career and legacy through interviews with him, his teammates and coaches. Although it’s not something anyone will watch more than once, it’s a good use of footage that the editors had to stuff somewhere to justify its cost.

While that was a fake profile, The Rock Learns to Play QB (3:28, 480p) is the actual feature that aired on ESPN documenting the training that Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson had to go through for the film. As any self-respecting fan of The Rock knows, Dwayne Johnson played defense for the University of Miami in the early 1990s, so playing a star quarterback in The Game Plan required him to re-wire both his mind and body for the offensive mentality of a quarterback for the fictional Boston Rebels.

If only The Rock had also hit up some Toastmasters at the same time… Chalk Talk (2:07:02), a feature-length commentary with director Andy Fickman and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, is completely ad-libbed and natural, but because the director and The Rock comment mostly in a play-by-play manner, more than three-fourths of the things they have to say are redundant to the pictures we’re already seeing on screen. As a result, most of this two-channel commentary track is excruciating. The commentary track’s one redeeming quality is its incorporation of what I like to call the weather man’s doodle pad: a feature that lets Fickman pause the on-screen action and draw on the screen to point out what he’s talking about (with circles, arrows, etc.). Unique? Yes. Interesting? Meh.

Rounding out the bonus features is D-Box motion code, which — if you have one of those spendy setups — will let you feel motion in your chair a la Star Tours or a motion-tracking flight simulator. Well, we don’t have one of those, so we can’t very well tell you how it works out. Hey, D-Box, how about sending us a comped setup so we can review these features, eh?

D-Box or no, The Game Plan is a very pleasant surprise, both from a movie standpoint and as a Disney Blu-ray Disc release. I’m used to seeing The Rock in more action-oriented films, so to see him not only pull off Joe Kingman’s dramatic changes but also shed a few tears was bizarre validation for his decision to go into acting. Likewise, to see a family-geared film deliver in such a big way on the video-quality front showed me that maybe, just maybe, Blu-ray Disc as a format is really hitting its stride. If The Game Plan is to be trusted, great A/V isn’t just for the big-budget films anymore. And I, for one, am hoping the industry can stick to The Game Plan from this day forward.

– Jonas Allen

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