There is undeniable little girl appeal in this story of a big, selfish meanie of a quarterback who is tamed by the 8-year-old daughter he never knew he had. Some audiences will find it as sugary as a fruit-scented princess pony sticker book, but its intended viewers will be delighted to see a story with a little girl who is smarter and more responsible than many of the adults around her and is adored by every one of them, especially her big, tough daddy.
Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, a college football player before he became a pro wrestler, plays star quarterback Joe “The King” Kingman. His jersey is Number 1 and he is, at least in his own mind, Number 1 in the hearts of the fans. He is proud that football is all that matters to him and hassles a teammate who leaves a party early to be with his family for losing his “man card.”
Enter Peyton (Madison Pettis). Joe and her mother were once married, but he never knew that she discovered she was pregant after they split up. Now her mother has had to make an emergency trip to Africa and Peyton plans to stay for a month. The next thing you know, she is Bedazzling his game ball and putting a tutu on Spike the bulldog. She talks like a PhD candidate, but she thinks the x’s and o’s in his playbook are kisses and hugs and tells him a bedtime story about a princess with a wardrobe of sparkley dresses with magic powers.
Yes, this is what we call an “Awwwww” movie, a subset of the “life force” genre in which some straight-laced, rather rigid person meets a free-spirited character, with the following consequences (1) dismay, (2) anger and/or humiliation, (3) realization of how much better life is with a little bit of unpredictability and a lot of love. The life force can be a romantic interest or an animal or some scruffy underdog sports team, but sometimes it is an adorable child. Awwwww.
It is about 20 minutes too long, as though they left in all the DVD deleted scenes. The movie is a little too much in love with The Rock’s preening and the sight of a very big man in very small ballet tights. Pettis is a cute kid with an impossible task. Her hyper-maturity is supposed to be funny, but it gets a little creepy. But The Rock is an ingratiatingly good sport, Kyra Sedgwick adds snap as Joe’s mercenary agent, Morris Chestnut brings warmth and sweetness to his role as a teammate, and Roselyn Sanchez manages to keep things this side of stereotypical spitfire-ism as Peyton’s ballet teacher.
Parents should know that there is some mild sports peril and violence and characters have allergic reactions, one involving a race to the hospital. There is a reference to a sad death and there are mild sexual references including the question of determining paternity. The movie includes brief potty humor. A strength of the movie is the portrayal of diverse characters.
Families who see this movie should talk about the most important lessons Joe and Peyton learned from each other. They should also talk about why reputation is important and whether product endorsements by athletes have any value. And what is the best thing that ever happened to you?
Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy No Reservations.