Playing for Keeps review

Director:
Gabriele Muccino
Cast:
Gerard Butler
Jessica Biel
Dennis Quaid
Uma Thurman
Catherine Zeta-Jones
Rated: PG-13

Gerard Butler can’t seem to escape the romcom void.

“Playing for Keeps” is the story of a retired soccer player named George (Butler), George has fallen on hard times, struggling financially and is trying to connect with his son even through being divorced from his wife Stacie (Biel). Eventually, George is sucked into becoming the new soccer coach for his son’s soccer team and through doing so he meets a few characters who make his attempts to reconnect with his family more difficult.

One of the problems with “Playing for Keeps” is that they tried to take a bunch of different plots that seemed to come from different movies, and smash them together into a sloppy mess. Not only do they bring in a bunch of different plots, they cut them off after a certain amount of time or make them significantly underdeveloped. They have a romantic comedy subplot; a divorce drama subplot and a father son bonding subplot, and each one of them don’t really go anywhere or mean anything.

And for the ending, they pick just the most cliché, lazy way out. Which is meant to basically tell the audience what they are suppose to feel at the end instead of building up and actually just naturally having the audience feel something through development of plot and character.

The characters can barely even be called characters because they act so over-the-top. They all seem more like plot devices. Starting out with Gerard Butler’s character, they try to make the guy seem like a flawed, but do a poor job doing so. It always seems like it’s the other characters that get him in more trouble. One of these characters is played by Dennis Quaid, who is around for just a bad few jokes, and then leaves halfway through the movie, only to come in for the stupid ending.

Then there are the soccer moms who are after Butler through the movie. There are three played by Uma Thurman, Catherine Zeta Jones and Judy Greer. All of them are over the top, selfish characters that provide no level of sincerity in their scenes, making it impossible to really feel any bit of real emotion whenever they are on screen.

Jessica Biel, who plays George’s ex-wife Stacie, actually tries to put effort into the movie, however it is pulled down because her character is written very poorly. For most of the film she is made to be really mean for no explained reason. There’s also a running gag with George’s landlord which I think the filmmakers thought would be funny, however it ends up being more creepy then funny.

“Playing for Keeps” is pretty much an insult to audiences. There is nothing real here; the film doesn’t try to offer a good plot with true emotional believability. Instead it gives a bunch of different bad, underdeveloped subplots to try to snag a few cheap tears and laughs.

It’s too bad because had the filmmakers actually tried to make a good product and used the actors to the best of their abilities, maybe a good movie could have resulted. Instead they went for the laziest way out in every stage of the process just to turn out some cliché junk around the holidays, it’s the lowest form of filmmaking and gets a 0.5 out of 5.

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Author: Matthew Liedke

My name is Matthew Liedke. I'm a reporter for the Bemidji Pioneer in Minnesota, but I also have a passion for the art of film. This passion led me to start writing about film in 2008. From 2008-2016 I wrote pieces at my own website, After the Movie Reviews. Then, from 2016-May 2018, my write-ups were featured on AreaVoices, a blog network run by Forum Communications Company. Today, I now write film reviews and other pieces here on Word Press. More about me: I'm a 2012 graduate of Minnesota State University Moorhead where I studied journalism and film. Outside of film, I enjoy sports, video games, anime and craft beers.

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