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'Playing for Keeps' review

'Playing for Keeps' loses big
'Playing for Keeps' loses big
Eclectic Pictures

Playing For Keeps


I really tried to like the uninspired romance/dramedy Playing for Keeps. After all, it had a fairly decent ensemble cast including Gerard Butler, Jessica Biel, Uma Thurman and Catherine Zeta-Jones (I used to have a really huge crush on Butler; gratefully now outgrown). After watching a slew of lousy movies during the last few weeks, I thought that no matter how bad this film was, I would find the good in it. Alas, if there was only a silver lining to the drab gray cloud that is Playing for Keeps.

You would think that, given the economic times we live in and how hard it is to get a movie payrolled (and there are some GREAT scripts out there just sitting on a desk because they can't get funding), that only the very best of the best re movies would be getting made. I mean, that makes sense to me. Rough economic times = higher quality films.

After watching the abysmal ex-soccer-star-becomes-family-man dramedy Playing for Keeps, I have accepted the truth: mass market movies are getting worse, not better. Now I don't want to lump the still-innovative and quality "indies" into this generalization. I'm talking big (or medium) budget popcorn movies here.

With all the great (and not-so-great) romcoms and dramedies already out there, it seems a foolish endeavor to add a mediocre (at best!) $35 million flop to the pot. That being said, here's a breakdown of what went terribly wrong with this movie.

The story is the first problem. It centered around aging soccer superstar George (played uninspiringly by Butler), who has moved to Virginia to be near his ex-wife and son. His ex-wife (played at least a little better by Biel) is about to be married to another man, but it is clear George wants to "man up" and be the husband and father he was too immature to be five years earlier. George is having financial troubles and his life is basically in shambles..until he gets talked into coaching his 9-year-old son's soccer team.

Suddenly things are swinging his way, as are all the single 40-something divorcees. While trying to juggle fatherhood and his little soccer team, George must try to win back his wife, earn back the respect of his son, and get his life together.

Aww...sounds like a dream of a movie. Unless you consider that this formulaic romance/drama has been done to death in about a thousand other movies (and many of those far better written and funnier than Playing for Keeps). Not only was the story old, but as you might guess the dialogue was atrocious. And by atrocious I mean boring, pedantic, and ridiculous.

Butler played a has-been decently (but not because of stellar acting ability). He's just lost his charisma; maybe it's the hard-drinking lifestyle. Biel and Thurman and even Zeta-Jones were just ok, and in a surprising twist Dennis Quaid (yes, who'd have thunk it) came out on top of the acting tier as a smarmy jealous husband.

Bad acting and poorly written script aside, I personally found the fact that every woman in this film flung herself at Butler's character to be degrading. The writer, and I guess you can't expect much more from the screenwriter of Pauly Shore-starrer In the Army Now), seems to think that every woman over the age of 40 must be in desperate need of male attention (or, in the case of Playing for Keeps, a good f**#k).

Ok, I've exhausted myself in trying to explain why this movie failed on all counts. It was so tired, so uninspired, I found it almost offensive that it not only got payrolled, but got a wide release in theaters (aka distribution). The romance aspect was the least believable, as the audience is supposed to swallow the fact that George's ex-wife, who is about to get married to the man she has lived with for three years, suddenly falls back into the arms of an ex-husband who abandoned her and her son five years earlier.

Do yourself a favor, reader, and skip this one. Stay home instead and rent a quality romcom/dramedy like When Harry Met Sally, Working Girl, While You Were Sleeping, You've Got Mail, or Forgetting Sarah Marshall. You'll save money, and inevitable disappointment.


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