Gerard Butler gets to keep his Scottish accent as he takes on the role of a former soccer star named George Dryer, the target of sexually aggressive soccer moms in this outlandishly silly romantic comedy/drama from the filmmaker who delivered the critically acclaimed The Pursuit of Happyness. And, please, if you can find a character in this who resembles any soccer parent you know, drop me an email. Heck, if you can locate a character in this mess who feels the least bit genuine, please let me know about that, too. I was unable to locate a single one.
Yes, women do fall hard for Butler and his Scottish accent in real life (his fan base is huge - and I consider myself a member of it), but there doesn't seem to be a single female character in Playing for Keeps with any morals or who has any basis in reality. They're all an attractive group of cardboard cutouts given ridiculous movie dialogue to spout - that is when they're not ripping George's clothes off, even when he's obviously saying no to their advances.
As a former soccer star who has gone through a series of bad investments and business opportunities, the Scottish hunk moves to the small town neighborhood where his ex lives with his young son. His presence causes hormones to stir and all women to lose their minds - with the exception of the mother of his child. She's over and done with the soccer player who it seems had a rep as a player while he was with her and their son.
His move to the small town is not only an attempt to mend his relationship with his son, but also a cry for employment help as he's totally broke and looking for work, hopefully as a sportscaster. However, George's lack of employment gives him plenty of free time to take over as the coach of his son's soccer team where the pack of predatory moms can't wait to get their claws into his back. And, of course, there's a soccer mom who just so happens to have once upon a time been a sportscaster herself and who has an in with ESPN.
Do you want to try and guess what comes next? You nailed it if you said he'll get a shot at the big time sportscasting business but it will come at the cost of A) having to disappoint his son and B) putting an end to his attempt at reconciliation with his ex who is now on the verge of marrying a seemingly decent, incredibly patient man (played by James Tupper).
The Bottom Line
No one gets out of this mess unscathed. Catherine Zeta-Jones' character (the soccer mom with the ESPN connection) is wealthy and entitled, Judy Greer's character (the soccer mom just getting herself back into the dating scene) appears to be suffering from some sort of undiagnosed mental illness, and Uma Thurman...well, I don't even know where to start with this one. What was she thinking? How could Thurman have possibly looked at this script and said yes? Or Dennis Quaid, who plays her womanizing, drug and/or alcohol abusing husband? This movie couple could quite possibly go down as one of the worst film couples in history. Take every single cliche you could possibly imagine involving a wife who knows she's being cheated on but won't leave her husband and the husband who can't keep it in his pants and you've created what we see on screen with these two characters. Quaid and Thurman's characters are the most offensive of the lot, but they have close competition from the whole pack of players led by Butler and Jessica Biel (as the ex). Biel has one emotion to display for the entire film as she tackles a character that's been drained of any personality. And Butler's George is little more than a prop around which the women all act as bizarrely as possible.
Don't be fooled by the cute trailers and TV spots. There are no laughs in this mislabeled romantic comedy. There's also absolutely no reason to waste time playing around with Playing for Keeps.
Playing for Keeps was directed by Gabriele Muccino and is rated PG-13 for some sexual situations, language and a brief intense image.
Theatrical Release: December 7, 2012