The last game of the regular season in the fictitious American Football Federation between the Boston Rebels and the New York Dukes. The game ends in a touchdown by Rebels quarterback Joe Kingman (Dwayne Johnson) after he runs it into the end zone, ignoring an open wide receiver, Sanders (Morris Chestnut). The next morning, Kingman gets a surprise when an 8-year-old girl named Peyton Kelly (Madison Pettis) shows up at his doorstep saying that she is his biological daughter, and that her mother (with whom Kingman got a divorce before she gave birth to Peyton) sent her here to meet him. Kingman's agent, Stella Peck (Kyra Sedgwick), thinks this will be bad for his image and distracts him with the upcoming playoffs
At the opening of Kingman's restaurant, he leaves without Peyton, and the next morning is on cover of a tabloid in a magazine article. As a result, Peck decides Kingman needs a new fatherly image. Later, at a press conference, the reporters make Kingman miserable, until Peyton starts speaking and says that he is new to this and is trying the best he can, and that she thinks he is the best father in the world. She then says that he has to repay her, she then has Kingman take her to a ballet academy run by Monique Vasquez (Roselyn Sanchez). Vasquez has Kingman join their ballet performance to show him that ballet takes just as much athletic ability as football. Kingman and Peyton begin their relationship after Peyton calls his arrogant and selfish behavior to his attention. Kingman takes Peyton and her friends to the mall where he begins to get along with Vasquez.
The Rebels march through the playoffs via three road games. They first travel to Denver in the Wild Card round, then to Indianapolis the Divisional round and then the Conference round against Baltimore. They eventually make it to the championship game held in Arizona in a rematch with the New York Dukes. Stella tells Kingman that if he wins, he will be offered a $25 million endorsement with Fanny's Burgers, a successful fast food restaurant run by Samuel Blake Jr (Robert Torti)...but only if he uses their name in the post-game coverage. While at lunch with Kingman and Vasquez, Peyton accidentally tells Kingman that her mother does not know that she is with him, and that she was supposed to go to a ballet school program this month, but she ran away to be with him. He gets upset at her, and she has an allergic reaction to the nuts in the dessert, causing Kingman to rush her to the hospital for treatment. The doctors tell Kingman that she is going to be fine, while his former sister-in-law and Peyton's legal guardian, Karen Kelly (Paige Turco), arrives in anger. Kingman comes to realize that Sara (Kathryn Fiore), Kingman's ex-wife and Peyton's mother, had died in a car accident six months ago. After overhearing Peck explaining that Peyton would be a distraction to Kingman, Karen and Peyton return home, leaving a miserable Kingman behind, following that night, Spike (Kingman's dog) finds Peyton's bag under her bed, inside, Kingman found some photos and a letter from Sara, saying that she hid Peyton away from Kingman because she's afraid that Peyton will only become a distraction for him. As the championship game begins, Kingman's thoughts keep drifting back to Peyton, and he is distracted from performing well. He is injured near the end of the first quarter, causing him to be rushed to the locker room as a result.
However, he is surprised to discover that Peyton has arrived with Karen. Peyton tells him to never give up. Near the end of the fourth quarter, Kingman passes the ball to the running back, Webber (Brian J. White), who gains positive yardage but fails to get out of bounds so the clock continues to run. Joe hurries his team to the line with the clock running, and rushes ahead before being knocked out of bounds. With time for one last play, Joe throws a lob pass to Sanders, who catches the pass, allowing the Rebels to win their first championship. When being interviewed after the game, Joe announces that he will take his daughter home instead of the pre-planned Fanny's Burgers line...choosing that he would rather stay with Peyton over the $25 million. The film ends with Kingman, Peyton, and Vasquez dancing together in Kingman's apartment to the song Burning Love.
- Dwayne Johnson as Joe Kingman
- Madison Pettis as Peyton Kelly
- Roselyn Sánchez as Monique Vasquez
- Kyra Sedgwick as Stella Peck
- Morris Chestnut as Travis Sanders
- Paige Turco as Karen Kelly
- Hayes MacArthur as Kyle Cooper
- Brian J. White as Jamal Webber
- Jamal Duff as Clarence Monroe
- Lauren Storm as Nanny Cindy
- Gordon Clapp as Coach Mark Maddox
- Kate Nauta as Tatianna
- Robert Torti as Samuel Blake, Jr.
- Rob Williams as McIlrevy
- Justin Sulham as Campbell
- Marv Albert and Boomer Esiason portray themselves, offering commentary in every game. Steve Levy also portrays himself as part of one game's postgame coverage for SportsCenter.
The Game Plan was filmed in the Boston, Massachusetts area. The movie was also filmed in three stadiums across the country. The Gillette Stadium in Foxboro. Mile High stadium in Denver, and the Sun Devil Stadium in Arizona.
Johnson's character taking ballet lessons in the movie was an indirect nod to Pro Football Hall of Fame wide receiver Lynn Swann, who took ballet lessons during his NFL career with the Pittsburgh Steelers. Swann later worked as a reporter for Disney-owned ABC & ESPN. Swann left Disney for a career in politics while The Game Plan was in pre-production.
Produced at an estimated cost of US$22 million, the film grossed $90,636,983 in the U.S market and $56,625,444 in foreign ticket sales and brought it to a grand total of $147,262,427. It opened at #1 at the box office grossing $22,950,971 in its first weekend in 3,103 theaters and averaging $7,396 per venue. It closed on February 18, 2008 with a final domestic gross of $90,636,983, and an additional $47,129,669 in other territories bringing the worldwide total gross to $137,766,652. This as well as the $45.79 million the film earned on DVD in its stay on the Top 50 chart, clearly makes this film a profitable venture for Disney.
Despite the financial success, the film was poorly received by critics, holding a 28% "Rotten" rating on Rotten Tomatoes. The consensus reads, "Despite The Rock's abundant charisma, The Game Plan is just another run-of-the-mill Disney comedy."