(Published in City Express, The New Indian Express, on December 8, 2012)
Cast: Gerard Butler, Noah Lomax, Jessica Biel, Uma Thurman, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Judy Greer, Dennis Quaid
Director: Gabriele Muccino
Rating: 2 stars
I suppose a film that has Gerard Butler wearing shorts and spending quality time with a kid, spurning the advances of aging, formerly hot, women, has to be somewhat awww-inspiring. So, let’s ignore the fact that the film wants us to believe an international football star has somehow ended up as the Scottish coach of his little son’s “soccer” team in a school in Virginia. Bored housewives (Uma Thurman, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Judy Greer), nostalgic ex-wife (Jessica Biel) with a new boyfriend (James Tupper), and rich jerk who tips in Ferraris (Dennis Quaid) make up the rest of the film’s cast.
George Dryer finds multiple demands on his time, courtesy the bored housewives. Of course, he’d rather play Dad to his son than sleep with any of them. What mystifies us most – aside from what made George’s finances slump to the extent he needed a coaching job with an underage team – is why he didn’t think of a career in sports broadcasting before Denise (Catherine Zeta-Jones) did. Well, we do also wonder why someone that nice ended up divorced from a woman who seems pretty sweet herself.
A film can’t really break new ground when it brands itself as a romantic comedy involving a football star and his ex, with supporting characters including the couple’s son. So, we could talk about how dishy Gerard Butler looks, running about in shorts, or hanging about in blazers, and wearing a mop of tousled, golden-brown hair that would make more sense in a shampoo ad than on a football coach. Or, we could talk about why a man who did Coriolanus should stop doing rom-coms. Or, we could talk about all the other performances in the film – awesome kid with flying-saucer-eyes, arrogant douche who should be slapped, women who should get laid. Right, so let’s look at why the film shouldn’t have been made.
Well, the story hinges on a coach who ticks off Dad, because he’s too busy chatting on his mobile to bother with the ten-year-old kids he coaches. Whaddya know, Dad wants to be coach. Whether this has to do with his love of football, or his sudden longing to redeem himself as Dad, or his Scottish disapproval of the American attitude to “soccer”, we’re left guessing. For all we know, it has to do with winning his former wife back from Generic Nice Guy, with the generic name ‘Matt’.
Playing for Keeps tries to show us just what George will have to give up in order to spend more time watching TV in the dark, and taking shade from the sun, with his pre-teen boy – a sad lot of divorcee stalkers, aggressive stalkers, and married stalkers. So, every time he looks intense and strokes the kid’s hair, the film sees fit to play mushy music and the camera sees fit to pan out.
The Verdict: Yet another sensitive-macho-man movie that is strictly for the viewing pleasure of sex-starved fans of Gerard Butler.