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The Rock Gets in Touch with His Softer Side in “Tooth Fairy”

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By DAVID DAVIN

Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson seems to be taking a page from Arnold Schwarzenegger’s career playbook in getting in touch with his softer side in a spate of recent family-oriented flicks. His latest is “Tooth Fairy” from 20th Century Fox, the studio’s first offering of the new decade.

“Fairy” focuses on a disillusioned hockey player named Derek Thomson who is forced by a magical tooth-fairy goddess (played by Julie Andrews) to serve two weeks as one of her grunts, flying into kids’ rooms and replacing their lost teeth with money. The film finds comedy mostly from the irony of having a buff, hard-nosed hockey player sporting a tutu and having to soften his edge as he attempts to deal with kids and their fantasies.

The picture is obviously a departure for Johnson’s tough-guy image. However, his recent films, including “Planet 51,” “Race to Witch Mountain” and “The Game Plan” show an actor increasingly interested in tapping into the ironic aspect of seeing a man with his macho-image put into less masculine situations. Johnson said donning the pink tutu and tights was not a challenge for him. “I actually really liked it,” he said, with Director Michael Lembeck chiming in, “I think he loved it.”

The strategy is very similar to Schwarzenegger’s in the late 80’s and early 90’s when he appeared in many family-oriented films to box-office success, including “Twins,” “Kindergarten Cop,” “Junior,” and “Jingle all the Way.”

Thus far for Johnson, the approach seems to be paying off. The family-oriented pictures he has headlined have brought in a cumulative gross of over 524 million worldwide, easily outperforming his action and drama headliners.

What remains to be seen is how “Fairy” will fair in the very tough January market. The month is a notorious dumping ground for studio pictures that have not panned out as expected.

When asked about how the picture would fare, Johnson said, “Wonderfully.”

Lembeck, was even more enthusiastic, “I don’t think anyone’s beaten Avatar yet,” but, he later added, “I think we can.”

Tooth Fairy is poised to be one of the first films with a shot at it. Avatar has topped the weekend charts for three very competitive holiday weekends thus far.

The pic, set to open wide on Jan 22, finds the former WWE star donning pink tights and a tutu

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