Playing For Keeps (2 stars)

Playing For Keeps

A rigidly formulaic and shamelessly sentimental romcom starring Gerard Butler

Gerard Butler has fared pretty badly when it comes to tackling romantic comedies (if you dare recall The Ugly Truth and PS I Love You) and his latest film doesn’t improve on his record.

A predictable tale of redemption, Playing for Keeps is a lacklustre comedy-drama inspired by the real life experiences of screenwriter Robbie Fox and his time coaching Little League. The film follows former football star George (Butler) as his career is cut short by injury and he finds his life at a crossroads. Relocating to Virginia in an attempt to re-connect with his estranged wife (Jessica Biel) and son (Noah Lomax), he takes up coaching his son's soccer team and becomes the object of desire for several of the team's desperate housewives (Catherine Zeta-Jones, Uma Thurman, Judy Greer), all of whom detract from his primary goal.

Directed by Gabriele Muccino (The Pursuit of Happyness), Playing For Keeps suffers from a central character who is difficult to sympathise with and some lazy plot devices that squander the talents of everyone involved. The central romance, in particular, is supposed to tug at the heart-strings given the fractured dynamic between father and son, and the presence of an impending new husband for Biel's character, but you never once doubt the outcome and Fox's script doesn't flesh out any of the characters.

It also fails to make the most of the opportunities provided by the other women in George's life, all of whom emerge as somewhat pathetic and outdated. George, meanwhile, has to do very little to earn his stripes. Aside from a couple of nice scenes between Butler and the young Lomax, Playing for Keeps is rigidly formulaic and shamelessly sentimental.

Selected release from Tue 1 Jan.

Playing for Keeps Official Trailer #1 (2012) Gerard Butler Movie HD

Playing for Keeps

  • 2 stars
  • 2012
  • US
  • 1h 46min
  • 12A
  • Directed by: Gabriele Muccino
  • Cast: Gerard Butler, Jessica Biel, Dennis Quaid
  • UK release: 1 January 2013

George (Butler), a former football star, tries to reconnect with his estranged wife (Biel) and son (Lomax) by coaching his son’s soccer team, if he can only fight off the town’s soccer moms (Zeta-Jones, Thurman, Greer). A formulaic redemption story in which the characters lack dimensions and the outcome is predictable.