Playing for Keeps

Movie Information

The Story: A washed up soccer player attempts to build a relationship with his semi-estranged son — and the boy’s mother — by coaching his youth soccer team. The Lowdown: An innocuous mess of a romantic comedy that’s occasionally confounding, wrongheaded and completely predictable.
Genre: Familial Romcom
Director: Gabriele Muccino (Seven Pounds)
Starring: Gerard Butler, Jessica Biel, Noah Lomax, Dennis Quaid, Catherine Zeta-Jones
Rated: PG-13

I’ve watched a lot of bad movies this year, and I’ve watched a lot of movies worse than Gabriele Muccino’s Playing for Keeps. But while there are more painful displays of cinematic dreck out there, Muccino’s film does rank up there with 2012’s most superfluous wastes of time. This is purely formulaic deadbeat-dad-on-the-road-to-redemption-meets-rom-com-pap, and if you insist on watching it, I can save you some time and just tell you to watch the trailer — the movie’s that kind of predictable.

Playing for Keeps features Gerard Butler — who might’ve finally, officially given up (I give it five years till he’s got a sitcom on CBS) — as George, a washed up former superstar soccer player, living in Virginia to be closer to his son Lewis (TV actor Noah Lomax), and the kid’s mother, Stacie (Jessica Biel). After reluctantly agreeing to coach Lewis’ soccer team, George begins to patch up his relationship with his son and with Stacie. Unfortunately, George isn’t very good at interpersonal relationships and continually mucks things up. While we pretty much know how this is going to end, there are the various necessary complications to get this mess to a reasonable runtime, like Stacie’s impending marriage, George’s attempts at becoming a sportscaster and his inability to keep it in his pants around all of these lonely soccer moms.

Much of the second act plays like part screwball comedy, part PG-13 sex farce, but adds nothing to the film, especially once the schmaltzy — and insultingly pat and tidy — climax kicks in. Instead, it makes for an incredibly uneven movie that doesn’t understand how to pace itself. Chunks of the film do little more than overstuff the plot. Mostly everything involving Dennis Quaid’s horn dog rich guy character exists simply to create contrivances. Even with a sympathetic performance from Butler (as written, George seems to genuinely want to improve his lot in life, he’s just no good at it), and a movie that handles his character’s sexual proclivities maturely, Playing for Keeps too often becomes either tooth-achingly gooey, horribly predictable or just too plain silly to be memorable. Rated PG-13 for some sexual situations, language and a brief intense image.

Playing at Carolina Asheville Cinema 14, Epic of Hendersonville, Regal Biltmore Grande, United Artists Beaucatcher Cinema 7



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