The Family Plan movie review
The Family Plan is Arnold Schwarzenegger’s True Lies by way of Martin Lawrence’s College Road Trip, albeit with none of the former’s thrilling spectacle and way too much of the latter’s cornball humor. Premiering on Apple TV+ on 15 Dec. Simon Cellan Jones’ action-comedy stars Mark Wahlberg as a suburban husband and dad whose secret past as a government assassin comes back to haunt him, thus endangering his comfortable domestic bliss. Cheerfully dumb and dutifully formulaic, it’s “content” in the worst sense of the term.
In a cookie-cutter Buffalo planned community, Dan Morgan (Wahlberg) resides with his physical therapist wife Jessica (Michelle Monaghan), daughter high school senior Nina (Zoe Colletti), gamer teen son Kyle (Van Crosby), and baby boy Max (Iliana Norris), whose coos and laughter are used as incessantly “amusing” punctuation. Dan is a great car salesman who convinces a customer to splurge on a Camaro by stating, “There comes a time in every man’s life when he asks himself, am I living the life I should be, or am I capable of something greater?… It’s never too late to become the man that you’ve always wanted to be.” This is inspirational mush that’s transparently about Dan’s own situation and on-the-horizon predicament since his prior career as a military-grade killer is directly at odds with the aggressively “normal” existence he’s carved out for himself.
Dan is grappling with a variety of issues at home, all of them tailor-made to be corrected by his ensuing adventure. Jessica likes spending every wedding anniversary at the amusement park where they first fell in love but she nonetheless craves more travel and spontaneity, what with them enjoying tacos every Wednesday and sex every Thursday. Nina has transformed from an outspoken and crusading newspaper reporter into a brat who spouts social justice buzzwords learned from her college boyfriend, whom she wants to follow to school in Iowa, much to Jessica’s displeasure. Kyle, meanwhile, is an antisocial kid who, in defiance of his dad’s orders, plays video games under the alias Kyllboi, and has become an online sensation for his skills. And Max, well, he coos a lot!
All of these characters are defined by the tension between who they are, were, and want to be, and after setting up its standard-issue dynamics, The Family Plan kicks into its preferred middling gear when Dan’s grocery shopping (with Max on his chest in a baby carrier) is interrupted by a silent, grimacing attacker whom he easily and violently dispatches. Everyone stares in awe at this combat display and yet, despite the film establishing that Dan is on a first-name basis with his myriad neighbors (whom he waves to as he drives down the street), word of this battle doesn’t get back to Jessica. Presumably, this is because she’s too busy at work or at her kickboxing class, where she meets Gwen (Maggie Q), a friendly travel executive who’s obviously a covert villain destined to reveal her true colors during the final act.
Concerned that his cover has been blown and his ex-associates have found him, Dan spirits his clan away on a spur-of-the-moment vacation to Vegas that’ll let him meet up with Augie (Saïd Taghmaoui), who can get him new passports and documents. The identity of Dan’s pursuers, and why they’re after him, remains undisclosed for much of The Family Plan, and that turns out to be for the best, since the climax’s revelations—which involve McCaffrey (Ciarán Hinds), a shadowy bossman with a surplus of anonymous henchmen—are as underwhelming as the perfunctory action set pieces featuring Wahlberg performing acrobatics with his infant son affixed to his body and neutralizing an adversary who’s hanging on his minivan door by spraying breast milk into his motorcycle helmet. As befitting its conceit, the proceedings are broad and trite, although that doesn’t mean they had to be so unimaginative.