By Mark Saldana 

Rating: 1.5 (Out of 4 Stars)


Warning: This film may cause disbelief, frustration, irritation, uncontrollable laughter at ludicrous scenes and will probably induce cringes and groans of immense proportions.  Well, at least those are some of the side effects I experienced during this lamest of the lame romantic comedies about a divorced ex-soccer player attempting to be a part of his son’s life and upbringing.  The laughter and frustration I expressed during the press/promo screening of Playing for Keeps flowed from me freely, much to the annoyance and chagrin of colleagues and audience members.  For that, I do apologize; I honestly got a little carried away. Nevertheless, with all its absurdities, clichés, stupid humor and sorry attempts at tension and drama, Playing for Keeps might have just earned a spot on my list of worst films of 2012.

George (Gerard Butler), a one-time soccer super star, has been struggling to keep his head above water recently. His attempts at a sports broadcasting career have been unsuccessful and his relationship with his son Lewis (Noah Lomax) has been a bit rocky.  When given the opportunity to coach Lewis’ soccer team, George see this as his chance to patch things up with his son and possibly his ex-wife Stacie (Jessica Biel).  Things get a bit challenging when his team’s mothers take quite a fancy to George, though.

Written by Robbie Fox (So I Married an Axe Murderer) and directed by Gabriele Muccino (The Pursuit of Happyness), the movie is as transparent as a perfectly cleaned window into which birds crash.  It does not take a genius at all to figure out how the film will end.  In fact, it frustrated me to no end that the filmmakers attempted lame “twists” to extend the film and prolong my agony.  It certain did not help at all that the attempted comedy fell flat, especially when it takes the silly “mad-cap” route.  Most of the characters are presented as bland caricatures. None of them feel like real flesh and blood people.  The cast members seem to try their best with the crappy material, but that actually makes the whole thing even sadder.

The cast consists of some great talents, talents who often make bad movie choices.  Gerard Butler, in particular, has had his share of misses.  In addition to Jessica Biel, the supporting cast includes Dennis Quaid as rich douche bag father Carl, Uma Thurman as his unhappy wife Patti, Catherine Zeta Jones as seductress Denise, and Judi Greer as kooky, lonely single mom Barb.  Actually, despite the poorly written material she is given, Greer probably is the only actress in whom I found amusement.  She has such tremendous talent when it comes to comedy.  I have been a fan since first seeing her in TV’s Arrested Development.

Sadly though, this film can’t even come close to touching the brilliance of that acclaimed cult show.  I do not recommend spending any money on the movie.  It will eventually play on television and even then I would recommend skipping it. Playing for Keeps really does not deserve anyone’s time or money.

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