Romantic comedies are one of my weaknesses. It’s a guilty pleasure that results in memorable favorites and some that leave a bad taste. This one falls somewhere in-between; the concept is cute and seems more realistic than not, however the morals leave much to be desired.
Playing for Keeps (2012) Film Review
George (Gerard Butler) did have a charmed life. A professional soccer star, over ten years after his career began, he’s now being forced to retire after an injury at the age of thirty-six. Unsure what comes next, he moves to Virginia where his ex-wife, Stacy (Jessica Biel) and young son Lewis (Noah Lomax) live. Now he must pursue a new career. Nine-year-old Lewis’ soccer team is being coached by a man who has no understanding of the game, George accidentally gets roped into coaching the team, and seems to impress the parents. Especially the mothers which include the recently divorced, Barb (Judy Greer); the once famous and wealthy Denise (Catherine Zeta-Jones); and forgotten trophy wife Patti (Uma Thurman).
Everything is about to go sideways.
Films that blatantly degrade ethical values and consistently engage in inappropriate behavior are off-putting. Particularly those of us who like the hero to be good; upstanding in a way we can justifiably root for him. George isn’t honorable. In one moment, he struggles with Stacy’s choices, and in the other he has a wandering eye who falls (willingly) into the trap women set for him. It’s annoying and makes it hard to forgive him.
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Masking some of the imperfections is a breezy, cute script that is actually infectious in its pursuit of being a comedy. It’s full of stereotypes but becomes a sweet romance that teaches its leading man what the meaning of love and family is. Helping to sell this idea is the cute child actor Noah Lomax whose outgoing acting and freckled face helps humanize George. The all-star cast also is convincing, mixing some charisma, Oscar nominees and recognizable faces. I enjoy Biel’s Stacy. Then there is George whose flaws number too many to keep count of. He has a kind of charm that almost makes viewers wish to forgive him – which from my point of view has nothing to do with the actor – and in most instances, we do because sappy or not, the usual outcome is what we want to see.
Approximately three-fourths of the way through the runtime, it becomes obvious part of the plot is pointless. It’s there for mere conflict as opposed to supporting or furthering the plot. Regardless of the writer in me recognizing this as a “flaw,” the part of me that is merely a viewer looking for a good night’s worth of entertainment found this one amusing. Demanding more from stories may be something everyone should look for, and yet, originality is harder than we give it credit for. That being said, Playing for Keeps is fun. It’s got a sweet ending with some likable characters that while, not a favorite, is one that I’ll likely see again.
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You can find Playing for Keeps digitally on Amazon Video
Content: There’s two implied sexual encounters, both of which are nothing more than a one-night stand scenario. One scene shows a woman stripped down to her underwear trying to seduce a man – he refuses, sending her away. Sexual innuendo is present cropping up in the script at various points. An unmarried couple live together. Profanity is infrequent; Lewis cops an attitude with his parent’s a time or two. The film is PG13.