After watching “Lincoln” and “Life of Pi,” two surefire contenders for Oscar nominations as best picture, viewing a film as shallow and predictable as “Playing for Keeps” was a massive letdown. What puzzles me is why such huge stars as Gerard Butler, Jessica Biel, Uma Thurman, Catherine-Zeta Jones, Judy Greer, and Dennis Quaid would lower themselves to make a “romantic comedy” short on romance and practically devoid of comedy.
When this film comes out on DVD, anyone who hasn’t already seen it will be able to pause it at any point from beginning to end and accurately guess what is coming in the next scene. The movie offers a prime example of formulaic filmmaking, and it would have been better suited as a Lifetime TV film.
The cliché-ridden plot revolves around George (Butler), a down-on-his-luck, divorced, former professional soccer player who is so broke that he tries to sell some of his soccer gear to make ends meet. He aspires to be a sports announcer but has had no luck there. His former wife, Stacie (Biel), is about to be remarried, and the only real bright spot in George’s life is his young son, Lewis (Noah Lomax).
Now all I have to do is set up the basic elements of the plot, and you can finish writing the summary. Lewis plays in a youth soccer league, and the coach of his team has his cell phone glued to his ear and knows nothing about soccer. And when George, who has taken Lewis to practice, hears the coach tell the players to kick the soccer ball with their toes, what do you suppose he does? Yes, he comes out of the stands, shows the boys the correct way to kick the ball, and ultimately becomes the new coach. SURPRISE!!!!
So what happens now? Well, George is a stud, and when he dazzles his new players with several amazing kicks, he not only wins their undying respect and admiration, but he also attracts the attention of three lovely soccer moms – Patti (Thurman), Denise (Zeta-Jones), and Barb (Greer).
It certainly doesn’t take a rocket scientist to predict that when these soccer moms find out George is divorced, they all decide they want him in their beds. One of them even lands him an interview with ESPN as a way of making him indebted to her. Poor George. How is he supposed to concentrate on coaching when he has three hot moms throwing themselves at him?
So which mom will George pick? None of them! Why not? He still loves his ex-wife. SURPRISE!!!!
Here are the big questions remaining to be answered. Will George leave town to pursue a career with ESPN? Or will he stay where he can be near Lewis? Will Stacie get married? Or will she and George get back together? Will George coach his team to the league championship? And what will become of the horny soccer moms?
Now to alleviate your frustration and agony over the answers to these incredibly important inquiries, allow me to provide you with a helpful hint. Some of the answers may be affirmative, and others may be negative. I hope that helps.
If you go to “Playing for Keeps” expecting an uproariously funny comedy, you will be disappointed. If you see the film hoping for a touching romance, you won’t get it. However, if you are in the market for a film that could have been written by a second grader, you are in luck.
Butler is appealing enough as George, and Biel is effective as the conflicted Stacie. And of course all those beauties playing the moms are easy on the eyes, and Quaid is almost amusing as a wealthy booster of the soccer league, but over all this film is sadly lacking in depth, humor, and romance.
During the past few weeks Hollywood has been releasing the films that should be Academy Award nominees, but “Playing for Keeps” (Give it a final score of four.) definitely isn’t one of them. My advice is to see “Lincoln” if you haven’t already done so, and then save your money for Christmas Day, when both “Les Miserables” and “Django” will be opening.
Here’s wishing you and yours a very Merry Christmas and a safe and prosperous New Year. Thanks for being valued readers.