Another macho man has made the obligatory leap into the kiddie pool. This time it's Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson who has gone and starred opposite a child in this weekend's new release The Game Plan. Could it damage his potential for further tough guy roles? Does he care? He's already signed on to another kid friendly part in Witch Mountain, so perhaps he's no longer worried about audiences accepting him as a muscle man with attitude.
The Rock, like Vin Diesel before him, may have jumped the gun on doing a Disney family film before securing an iconic place next to Schwarzenegger, Stallone and other action hero types. His movie may therefore lack that necessary extreme between the character we associate with The Rock and the character he must take on for the movie -- like the type of contrast that made Kindergarten Cop so funny.
But there are worse things he could do. Other action stars and macho actors have made some pretty terrible mistakes that had nothing to do with working with kids, and many of these mistakes were career altering. Let's just hope Dwayne Johnson never has to suffer such ideas as these:
1. Junior (1994, Ivan Reitman)
For a macho guy, finding out you have a kid is domesticating, but finding out you're pregnant is emasculating. Nothing says an action hero has gone soft like giving him a bun in the oven, and it's no wonder that Arnold Schwarzenegger had difficulty maintaining his image in action movies for the next decade -- until Terminator 3. I'm certain that if The Rock tried doing a movie in which he's with child rather than with a child, he'd cause far more problems for his career. At least Schwarzenegger had just a few months earlier released True Lies, and fans likely held onto the hope he would be back on top one day.
2. Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot (1992, Roger Spottiswoode)
Sylvester Stallone somehow avoided the precocious child route, but that's probably because he chose to go the other extreme instead. Yes, he somehow thought his fans wanted to see him paired up with a nagging, gun-toting grandma rather than a lovable tyke. At least with kid movies, there's more access for a wide audience, which probably includes kids, who will probably become new fans. That isn't to say Estelle Getty isn't lovable -- the success of The Golden Girls attests that she is -- but for Stallone people, it's a bit much to see him upstaged as an action hero by an old lady. I could see somebody getting the idea to redo this with The Rock and Cicely Tyson, but it better not happen. Stop! did actually make more money than Stallone's previous comedy, Oscar, and he was able to follow-up both disasters with a few more entertaining action blockbusters, but he unfortunately went and suffered another terrible choice (see #4) in no time at all.
3. Top Dog (1995, Aaron Norris)
Chuck Norris may never have been a big star, and he may never have made a really good movie. But he had a fan base, and that base wanted movies like Missing in Action and The Delta Force, as much as they wanted their subscription to Soldier of Fortune magazine. When Top Dog came out, it was probably like getting an accidental issue of Dog Fancy. Sure, some dog movies aren't bad -- see Turner & Hooch and K-9 -- but they are left left to the comedians. Nobody wants to watch a tough guy like Norris get all soft for a big, shaggy dog. It's only a matter of time before The Rock goes to the dogs, too, probably while also sticking with the kids, and it's then that we can say goodbye to his A-list status. Fortunately for Norris, he was already into his successful television series, Walker, Texas Ranger, but I don't think he's had a theatrical feature released since this pooper scooper fodder.
4. Judge Dredd (1995, Danny Cannon) and Knock Off (1998, Tsui Hark)
What do these two movies have in common? Yes, they're both awful, but they also both co-star Rob Schneider, possibly the kiss of death when working alongside action heroes. In the first, he appears with Stallone, who was otherwise on a roll with decent movies following the misfire of Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot. The second has the honor of being bad even for a Jean-Claude Van Damme movie. And he had just come off another movie paired-up with Dennis Rodman, but that wasn't as bad as this. I appreciate wholly that Schneider has his fans, that he does well with his own movies and as a support in other Happy Madison comedies. But he needs to stop bringing down the action guys. Surprisingly, though he did participate in a spoof of The Mummy for MTV, Schneider has not worked with The Rock ... yet. Also, it is interesting to point out that Schneider and Schwarzenegger were both in Around the World in 80 Days (which I kinda liked), but they weren't together, so it had no effect on the Governator. Schneider's part in that movie was also probably too small to affect Jackie Chan, as well. Thank god.
5. Masters of the Universe (1987, Gary Goddard)
Dolph Lundgren made a pretty tough bad guy in Rocky IV, and he probably could have made a great Hollywood action hero ... were it not for following up the role of Drago with the role of He-Man. Sure, He-Man was a macho character for us '80s kids -- even with that bowl haircut -- but in Masters of the Universe he was totally lame. Maybe it was his silly outfit, maybe it was his inability to bring the true awesome power of Grayskull or maybe it's that Marc Singer played a better He-Man in The Beastmaster. Whatever the case Lundgren really blew it with this movie, and two years later he continued to upset fanboys with his portrayal of The Punisher. From then on he was forever left to star in cheap B-movie action flicks. The Rock is set to star in his own movie adaptation of a classic comic/cartoon character, either playing the title role or the villain in Shazam! Will he get it right, or will he be as doomed as Dolph?
6. Half Past Dead (2002, Don Michael Paul)
Remember when Steven Seagal tried to make a comeback by starring in "urban" action films like Exit Wounds and Half Past Dead? It actually seemed like a better idea than his bad environmentalism action movies, but then it became apparent that he really didn't fit in. Plus, next to guys like DMX and Ja Rule, Seagal looked his least tough ever. I'm not sure why. Maybe because it was like watching someone's dad hanging out with rap stars. Which it was, I guess. Now Seagal is only making direct-to-DVD movies. The Rock wouldn't stick out as much in a movie like this, but it would still be sad to see him try so hard. I wonder what an equivalent for him would be. In a way, I thought Walking Tall was almost more fitting for someone like Seagal than The Rock, so maybe that's close to what I'm thinking.
7. Last Action Hero (1993, John McTiernan)
It was a cool concept, and the movie has its supporters, but on the heels of the hugely successful Terminator 2, it wasn't a good time for Arnold Schwarzenegger to make fun of his image. Self-parody is welcome, in cameos -- see Bruce Willis in Loaded Weapon 1 or Chuck Norris in Dodgeball -- but with a whole feature like Last Action Hero, fans are going to want to stop laughing (if they're even laughing) and actually watch a real action movie. Fortunately, Schwarzenegger was able to follow this up with True Lies (and then ruin his image again -- see #1). I feel like one day The Rock is just going to be a big walking parody of himself and his image. Maybe we'll even get a movie titled What the Rock is Cooking or The Eyebrow or something. I can't wait. Because then, I'll be dying to see The Game Plan instead.