Review: Playing for Keeps
PLOT: George (Gerard Butler) is a former soccer (FOOTBALL!) star who, after a career-ending injury, has followed his ex-wife (Jessica Biel) and son to the US to try and get his family back. Meanwhile, heís trying to launch a career as a sports broadcaster, to no avail, but- when heís spotted giving soccer tips to his sonís team, heís made their coach. The job proves to be surprisingly lucrative, especially with all the attractive single mothers competing with each other for Georgeís affections.
REVIEW: PLAYING FOR KEEPS has a better pedigree than most Gerard Butler rom-coms, in that itís directed by Gabriele Muccino- best known for his top-notch Will Smith vehicle THE PURSUIT OF HAPPYNESS (along with the much less successful follow-up, SEVEN POUNDS). Given the prime X-Mas release date, one might assume that PLAYING FOR KEEPS is a cut above the usual genre fare, but really- itís not. This is the same old tired Gerard Butler rom-com that weíve been seeing for years- tailored to his (sizable) female following and no one else.
If youíve seen the PLAYING FOR KEEPS trailer, youíve essentially seen the film. All the movie does is stretch it out to ninety minutes, although Iíd wager a good sixty of those minutes feel like filler. Gerard Butler seems game on establishing himself outside the action genre, but I find him too bland for a movie like this. How is he any different for a guy like Josh Duhamel or Patrick Dempsey? Ok- he has an accent, but thatís it.
His character, George, could have been fun had they done something cool like have him be a David Beckham style super-star adjusting to life in small-town America, but in a stunningly bad move, the movie picks up with him already having established a life in the states. Not much is made of the fact that he was once a sports icon, and the legions of soccer moms that throw themselves at him have less to do with his fame than his six-pack. Heís also made too nice a guy, and Biel constantly thwarting his kindly advances (until the final act- natch) make her seem like a shrew, albeit an unnaturally hot one.
Bielís role is by-the-numbers, as are the other two-dimensional female roles. Catherine Zeta-Jones plays the cougar-mom, who promises to use her clout to help his career, while Judy Greer has a thankless part as the newly single mom who (natch) finds her way in to Gerardís bed. Maybe if they had made Greerís character the love interest this would have been more interesting?
Dennis Quaid fares worst of all as the typical asshole-dad, with the hot trophy wife (Uma Thurman- with a role that seems to have been mostly left in the cutting room although we do get to briefly see her in lingerie). Quaidís part is obscenely dumb, and itís no wonder that after doing this he went to TV (CBSí VEGAS). In a weird piece of editing, after being prominent for the first act, he totally disappears for the next hour until re-emerging towards the very end.
Itís really too bad that PLAYING FOR KEEPS is such a tepid, vanilla, rom-com, as thereís nothing at all wrong with a good holiday date movie. Sadly, it seems to be this yearís NEW YEARíS EVE or P.S I LOVE YOU, and hopefully itíll be forgotten in a week or two.