movie film review | chris tookey

Playing for Keeps

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  Playing for Keeps Review
Tookey's Rating
1 /10
Average Rating
3.00 /10
Gerard Butler, Jessica Biel, Uma Thurman
Full Cast >

Directed by: Gabriele Muccino
Written by: Robbie Fox

Released: 2012
Origin: US
Colour: C
Length: 105

Reviewed by Chris Tookey

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How does Gerard Butler (pictured) select his scripts? Does he deliberately choose the most misogynistic screenplays in Hollywood? Does he, perhaps, employ mice to sniff out the ones with the cheesiest lines? Or does he, as one American critic has suggested, make his decisions by blindfolded dart throw?

Iím not sure, but Playing For Keeps is the first turkey of the new year, and in the long, ignoble tradition of naff romcoms starring Butler. This stands alongside The Ugly Truth and The Bounty Hunter as the worst of its kind.

The elderly comedian Rodney Dangerfield once made a career-ending comedy about coaching a youth soccer team, called Ladybugs. Somehow, Playing for Keeps manages to be worse.

Butler plays a retired soccer player whoís now broke and trying to ingratiate himself with his nine year-old son (Noah Lomax) by managing his football team. Less than hilariously, this leads to our hero being propositioned by sex-crazed soccer moms, who all look like Hollywood film stars - Catherine Zeta Jones, Judy Greer and Uma Thurman, amazingly enough.

I guess there are three alternative storylines.

(1) Our hero will pass on an embarrassing or possibly fatal sexual disease, and the whole cast will perish horribly.

(2) He will enjoy a happy and fulfilling sex life with all those hot women who keep throwing themselves at him, and heíll learn not to care a jot about his son and wife.

(3) He will learn the errors of his ways and try to get back together with the woman he loves.

Yes, youíve guessed correctly. The only surprise is that the role of Ideal Wife isnít played by Katherine Heigl. Instead, it goes to Jessica Biel. Sadly, itís no improvement. Though Ms Biel is always easy on the eye, she acts the whole film as though sheís on anti-depressants and canít remember where she left the tablets. Because sheís so weak as a character, itís hard to discern why Butler ever fancied her in the first place.

Itís especially depressing to see Dennis Quaid in a supporting role, as a rich, unfaithful businessman willing to buy his son on to the kidsí soccer team. Quaid does, at least, seem to realise heís in a comedy. With Butler, itís hard to be sure.

For some reason, Quaid barely appears in the second half, and no one seems to mind. Maybe he took time off to reconsider his future. Or perhaps the producers reckoned he was stealing the movie, which he was. The trouble is that the film is no good without him.

The tone varies wildly between sex farce and mawkish romantic melodrama. Most people will reckon that the wife, however lacklustre, would be much better off without the self-centred idiot ďheroĒ, but that thought never seems to have occurred to director Gabriele Muccino (who made The Pursuit of Happyness and Seven Pounds) or screenwriter Robbie Fox, whose last major credit was So I Married an Axe Murderer, nine years ago. He may have an even longer wait for his next one.

This is Hollywood assembly-line product aimed at the lowest common denominator. The film has rocks for brains and a weird case of attention deficit syndrome.

Butler looks surprisingly good for a man who spent last February in rehab for substance abuse, but he remains ill-suited to romcom as he lacks any lightness of touch or sensitivity towards the female characters. His surprisingly strong performance in Ralph Fiennesí Coriolanus suggests he is at his best in non-comedic roles as a ďmanís manĒ. He looked a lot more at home in 300, chucking spears and beating people up in a leather loin-cloth.

Maybe he needs to concentrate on tough-guy films. Or take off that blindfold and buy a bigger dart-board.

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