Playing For Keeps: Film Review

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After watching Gerard Butler in the dismal new romantic comedy Playing For Keeps, I had to ask myself: has he ever starred in a decent mainstream Hollywood movie? The thundering success of 300 notwithstanding, it was still a pretty lame narrative, and would have crumbled in the dustbin of John Carter-like action mega duds had it not been 90% animated.

So, no: Gerard Butler has never been in a good movie. But that’s sort of beside the point when you’re watching something that feels as positively retro and misogynistic as does this movie. It doesn’t help that two of Hollywood’s most glamorous and popular leading ladies – Catherine Zeta Jones and Jessica Biel – headline the cast in parts that are far below their pedigree. Then there’s Uma Thurman (read: certifiably insane) who leads the pack when it comes to an obtuse lack of self-awareness. Seriously, somebody (anybody) tell her that she should consider retiring from acting. Her screen persona has all the warmth of a half-melted igloo. Yes, those cheekbones are amazing, but cheekbones do not an actress make.

It’s almost embarrassing to try and retell the plot, but since that’s one of my duties, here you go: George Dryer (Butler) is a hasbeen soccer star who moves to Virgina to try and reconcile with his ex-wife Stacie (Biel). They have a young son who likes to play soccer because he wants to be like daddy. Why he wants to be like daddy is a mystery because Daddy spends most of his time tossing back his messy mane of Irish hair as the other soccer moms (Zeta Jones and Thurman) throw themselves at him because he’s supposedly the manliest hunk of man to have ever stepped onto a child’s soccer field.

That, in essence, sums up the story: a damaged divorcee shows up in a sleepy Virgina suburb, and suddenly every woman (married and single) has to readjust her diaphragm because she must have him. Apart from aggrandizing the sex appeal of Gerard Butler, I cannot think of any other reason that this movie should exist. Nor can I imagine what Jessica Biel, Catherine Zeta Jones and Dennis Quaid were thinking when they signed on for this sprained kickstarter of a movie. This one’s a flop for sure.