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Playing for Keeps (2012) Review
By Darrin Jones / December 7

Ingredients: If you liked the drama of The Lucky One, the comedy of P.S. I Love You, and you're a Gerard Butler fan, then you will like this movie.

So, Playing for Keeps. Yep, it’s pretty standard for a romantic comedy.  Let’s jump right into it. George (as played by Gerard Butler) is a divorced ex-soccer player and dead-beat dad who’s fame is nearly all dried up. Fortunately, the movie skims over all that and in favor for starting off with him starting to try to become a bigger part in his son’s life, which I actually appreciated. George has moved to town of his ex-wife Stacie (Jessica Biel) and is trying to put his life back together. Fortunately, their son’s soccer coach is a complete load and George is asked to step in and coach the kids himself. Unfortunately, George becomes the center of attention for all the suburban parents and much whacky shenanigans ensue. Can George put his old mistakes behind him and start a new life with his son? Well, probably, like I said it’s a standard rom-com.

So once again, Gerard Butler is being delightfully Scottish while surrounded by attractive women but now he gets to play sports. The movie is actually pretty weird in how it’s presented. It definitely feels like it has two different stories going on which is really distracting. Early on I was dreading the movie until they finally got past the ridiculous Desperate Housewives, chaotic suburbia motif in favor of a more dramatic mood.

When Gerard is coaching the kids on soccer techniques and playing a little bit himself it feels really natural. And George is a charmingly likable character. He is a genuinely nice guy who just has a history of making bad decisions and is sincere in wanting to fix his flaws. Also, Biel and Butler do have good on-screen chemistry which helps to make the tragic romance more believable and gives their actions some real emotional impact. But the whole thing gets muddled by the forced slapstick.

The film sports a few big names but they’re all underused and no one gets more then a few minutes on screen at a time. And several of the characters are just too cartoonish.  I wasn’t kidding when I said this movie is dangerously close to Desperate Housewives. Maybe that will appeal to the ‘target audience’ but it’s pretty alienating for anyone else.

All in all, it was an okay flick. It doesn’t bring any new ideas to the table but it’s not insulting or overly sappy. I’d recommend it to anyone that enjoys romantic comedies, an occasionally shirtless Gerard Butler, or is looking for an idea for a date movie.

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