When Gerard Butler speared his way on-screen six years ago as King Leonidas in 300, we all thought we were witnessing the coming of the next great action star. The Scottish actor had charisma, good looks and timing on his side. Tom Cruise was jumping on couches, Arnold was still the Governor and we had no clue who Jeremy Renner was. So the door was wide open for Butler to become the next big action hero. Hollywood had other ideas for Gerard. Instead of kicking butt, Butler starred in a string of romantic films such as P.S. I Love You, The Ugly Truth and The Bounty Hunter. None of the those films showed Butler’s action prowess and were box office duds. The trend does not change this week with Butler starring in Playing for Keeps along side Jessica Biel.
Playing for Keeps has Butler in the role of George Dwyer. An ex-professional soccer player who was once a huge star, but has now fallen on hard times both financially and personally. George moves back to Virginia to be close to his son Lewis (played by newcomer Noah Lomax) who is living with George’s ex Stacie (Jessica Biel) and her fiance. Can you figure out where this story is going? George decides to bond with Lewis by coaching his youth soccer team, much to the delight of the frisky soccer moms who vie for George’s attention.
Playing For Keeps is a mess of movie that can’t decide what it wants to be. At first you think it will have a Bad News Bears premise with a washed up player taking a rag-tag bunch of soccer kids to the championship. That part of the film is all but abandoned when the film try’s to be Loverboy, with George canoodling with the soccer moms played by Judy Greer, Uma Thurman and Catherine Zeta-Jones. Why are these three talented actresses slumming it in a film like this. The moms are seen as one-dimensional characters who are just looking to get their rocks off. The only positive about this plot is just like the kid’s soccer team, the soccer moms are left on the bench in the third act for the inevitable “I’m still in love with my ex” gimmick.
Yes, just like most uninspired romantic comedies that Hollywood churns out each year, the plot returns to the “you’re the one I was meant to be with” concept. I know it may seem like I’m ripping romantic comedies considering outside of musicals, Rom-Coms are my least favorite movies. There are some well made romantic comedies out there. Definitely Maybe, Fools Rush In and When Harry Met Sally are all films that I love. I just don’t like romantic comedies that pander to an audience that hopes for happy endings no matter how ridiculous the circumstances.
Besides the forced pulling of the heart-strings, the movie is manic. Playing For Keeps can’t decide which movie it wants to rip off or what direction it wants to follow. The lone bright spot of the film would be Dennis Quad playing the sleazy and wealthy soccer father Carl who steals every scene he is in. Unfortunately, just like all the other subplots that are abandoned, Quad’s Carl is MIA for the last half of Playing For Keeps. Even romantic comedy fans will want to give this film a red card for unnecessary sappiness and no direction. Overall I give Playing For Keeps 1 Potato.