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PLAYING FOR KEEPS
DIRECTOR: Gabriele Muccino
CAST: Gerard Butler, Jessica Biel, Noah Lomax, Dennis Quaid, Uma Thurman, Catherine Zeta-Jones and Judy Greer.
RUNNING TIME: 106 min
RATING: 2 stars (out of 5)
SWOONING over Scottish actor Gerard Butler much? Well, thanks to the transfixing trailer that alludes to a compelling love story, Butler – and the influential supporting cast – lures film buffs susceptible to such mawkishness.
I, on the other hand, was far from impressed. And that’s even sadder when you look at the talent pool in this rom-com.
Directed by Muccino (‘Pursuit of Happyness’, ‘The Last Kiss’), written by Robbie Fox (‘So I Married An Axe Murderer’) and co-produced by more heavyweights like Kevin Misher (‘Public Enemies’), Jonathan Mostow (‘Hancock’), Alan Siegel (‘Law Abiding Citizen’, ‘Machine Gun Preacher’), Butler (‘The Bounty Hunter’, ‘The Ugly Truth’), Heidi Jo Markel (‘Trust’, ‘Solitary Man’) and John Thompson (‘The Expendables’, ‘Brooklyn’s Finest’) – this movie should in fact be a hit.
Perhaps, the convergence of contradictory visions ruined the end result.
Butler is cast as George Dryer, a legendary soccer player who is now down on his luck. The movie opens with him doing a mock video as a sports caster. Determined to spend more time with his young son Lewis (Lomax), who lives with his ex Stacie (Biel) and her fiancé Matt (James Tupper), he moves closer to them and ends up coaching his son’s soccer team.
Still madly in love with his ex, Dryer tries to win her back. But he complicates the situation with his numerous flings with the soccer moms who throw themselves at him. Just as he seems to be getting his life back, he gets an offer from ESPN, but he has an epiphany that makes him rethink his decision.
When it comes to storytelling, fluidity and a sense of honesty are crucial building blocks. And that is what Playing for Keeps lacks. It is hard to take this rom-com seriously as it haemorrhages on too many sub-plots that dilute the impact of the main story arc of a reformed ex star trying to get his family back.
Butler’s rugged sex-appeal is capitalised on for the movie. And Zeta-Jones, Thurman and Greer magnify this fact by playing raunchy temptresses.
Meanwhile, Quaid – still boggles as to why he agreed to play such window dressing – plays this arrogant and jealous husband who wears his affluence on his sleeve.
Biel delivers an understated performance as a woman torn between two men and doing right by her son.
Sadly, a smattering of heart-warming moments fails to redeem what is ultimately a disastrous offside shot at a rom-com.
If you enjoyed… ‘The Ugly Truth’ and ‘Knocked Up’… you should find this mildly entertaining.