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Playing for Keeps

Escape Plan

What She said:

She

Playing for Keeps is kind of a rom-com, kind of a family film, and I’m surprised that I had never heard of it considering the big-name cast that the movie boasts.  We’ve got Gerard Butler, Jessica Biel, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Dennis Quaid, Uma Thurman, and Judy Greer.  While it’s not quite charming or funny enough to really be a rom-com, it does have a heart and I give this movie a C for effort.

The film follows the character of George Dryer.  He’s an aging former professional soccer player who had quite a career in yester-year, but these days he’s just unemployed and broke.  Like so many former pro athletes, he’s trying to get into sports broadcasting, but is yet to catch his break.  He’s moved closer to his ex-wife, Stacie, and son, Lewis, whom he has not spent much time with through the years.  But George is now ready to try to forge a stronger relationship with them both.

Trying to be the good dad, George starts attending Lewis’ soccer matches, and quickly realizes that the team is absolutely terrible because they have no real coach.  He steps in showing the kids a thing or two and everyone reacts very well.  Once people realize who he is, they beg him to take over coaching the team for the season.  George hesitantly agrees, knowing that it will help him become closer with his son.  Over the course of the weeks that follow he learns a thing or two about good parenting, and also becomes the eye candy of every soccer mom on the team, single or married.  George seems to have an embarrassment of riches—he’s able to hang out with his kid and he has women throwing themselves at him.  But his life is really the pits, as he’s still without a major mode of employment and tensions rise between him, his son, and his ex-wife.  Can George stay out of the gauntlet of mama-drama and repair his relationship with Lewis and Stacie?

This film is truly filled with stereotypes.  Every character in this movie, except maybe George, is pretty much acting as society would have them.  The women immediately are flustered around George, men seem to be jealous, and there’s money coming out of everyone’s ears.  With so many unlikable people, it’s hard to forge in this film any real meaning.  The character of Stacie is the only person that seems decent, and even she can be faulted for being too patient and too forgiving.  This film certainly could have been better done if it has tried to be more authentic with their characters.  I mean, Dennis Quaid’s character is absolutely unhinged.  He actually seems cracked out. 

Playing for Keeps

Beyond the characters, I found the plot to be fairly stale.  Not that there is a rom-com out there that isn’t entirely predictable, but this film doesn’t do much to challenge the norm.  In one sense, it’s nice to just shut off my brain and go along for the ride, but this also lends itself to boredom.  This movie felt every bit its 1 hour 46 minute runtime, plus some.  It wasn’t painful.  It was just difficult to keep myself trained on it the entire time.

On the plus side, the viewer is treated to a nice, happy ending, even if that happy ending is kind of impractical.  I don’t really buy Gerard Butler as the fatherly type, but I give this film some credit for making an effort.  It really does try to make you feel good about the sense of family that George is attempting to put together for himself.  It made me want to call up my parents and thank them for the support they’ve given me through the years.  It did NOT make me want to ever allow my children to engage in soccer as an athletic pursuit.

Playing for Keeps received scathing reviews on Rotten Tomatoes.  While I think that the film definitely had its weaknesses and annoyances, it wasn’t the worst thing I ever saw.  I certainly didn’t leave offended.  I just wished it had been a little bit better made.

Thumbs a quarter up.

Playing for Keeps

What he said:

He

George Drywer (Gerard Butler) is a former professional soccer player who has fallen on hard times. The movie never comes right out and says it, but the more you get to know the character, you get the impression he blew all his money. He has aspirations of becoming a sportscaster, but until that gets off the ground he’s dabbles in things like real estate and sports memorabilia (mostly his own possessions).

His personal life is also a mess too. He is divorced and has a poor relationship with 10-year old son Lewis (Noah Lomax). This is because he is always late or simply missing visits with his son and George generally seems to be a mess (more on that later).

To try and build a better relationship with his son, George ends up coaching his soccer team. One of the dads (played by Dennis Quaid) notices who he is and quickly develops a major man crush on him. He is also something of a bullshit artist and sees an opportunity to capitalize off of George’s career. Several of the moms notice him too. Three of them – one of which is Dennis Quaid’s character’s wife – put the moves on George.

Playing for Keeps

Now I mentioned earlier that George is a mess of a guy. I’m about to give you some minor spoilers, but don’t sweat it. This movie isn’t anything special and I’m not giving anything major away. So George is pining after his ex-wife (Jessica Biel) the entire movie, telling her how much he misses her and wants to be a part of her and Lewis’ life, but meanwhile he sleeps with not one, but two of the mothers from his kids soccer team, takes money from his kid’s soccer team to pay his rent, and still can’t show up on time when it’s his time to be with Lewis. We’re supposed to cheer for this guy and want him and Jessica Biel’s character to get back together?

Speaking of Jessica Biel’s character, why hasn’t she had a restraining order placed against George? George surpasses a guy who can’t get over his ex, he’s a stalker. He shows up at her house late at night and asks her to get back together with him every time her fiancé isn’t looking. Again, this is a character I am supposed to root for?
The weird part is this movie made me laugh more than a few times, but it didn’t know what it wanted to be. One minute it’s a zany comedy, the next it’s trying to be a drama, it’s just all over the map. The characters and stories are just all over the map.

Rating: Thumbs down.

This movie review was given the He said, She said seal of approval on February 22, 2014.

 

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