Film review: Playing for Keeps

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Gerard Butler stars in the relationship redemption comedy Playing For Keeps. Image courtesy of FILMDISTRICT Gerard Butler stars in the relationship redemption comedy Playing For Keeps. Image courtesy of FILMDISTRICT

Keep awaySoccer farce Playing For Keeps gets a red card

Playing for Keeps is not the worst movie of 2012. In fact, it’s not even in the bottom 10. (It may be in the bottom 11.) And in life’s grand scheme, it’s innocuous. But it is contrived, lazy, stupid, and looks as if it were smeared with mud.

Instead of going to pains to describe this hodgepodge of clichés and bad choices, how about we just rip on the ways it’s awful? If plot summary happens incidentally, great.

1. The title. Playing for Keeps is possibly the most torpid title in movies this year. Even Trouble with the Curve is more appropriate, and that title sucks. If it’s of any interest, in Playing for Keeps our hero/non-hero is George Dryer (Gerard Butler), a former European soccer star trying to keep his family together while coaching his son’s soccer team.

2. The cast. Forget the leads, Butler and Jessica Biel. These two star in bad movies for a living. But what are Dennis Quaid, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Uma Thurman and, to a lesser degree, Judy Greer doing in this tripe? Quaid is a bad actor who makes terrible movies (and recently!—skip The Words), but this is really the dregs. Perhaps Greer was tired of playing the bitchy best friend or the industry decided she’s too old. Maybe Jones and Thurman really needed a paycheck. It’s a total mystery how anyone with star power ended up in this farce.

3. The conceit. Wait, this is a movie about a guy trying to win back his family/redeem himself so he agrees to coach his son’s soccer team? With the mildest of modifications, it could be any of the following wretched movies about sports screw-ups: Ladybugs. Kicking & Screaming. Major League: Back to the Minors. Any Given Sunday. Summer Catch (also starring Biel!). The Scout. The Benchwarmers. Johnny Be Good (also starring Thurman!). Considering the depths of cinematic sports rottenness, the filmmakers could have taken a few cues from the above-mentioned barf-fests and cobbled together a screenplay that doesn’t appear as if it were written on cocktail napkins after one too many Long Island iced teas. Screenwriter Robbie Fox also wrote Pauly Shore’s In the Army Now. At least Playing for Keeps is better than that.

4. The way the plot shakes out. Playing for Keeps is more predictable than the aforementioned Trouble with the Curve and it doesn’t have the benefit of a suitably grouchy performance by Clint Eastwood.

5. This movie looks terrible. Each shot seems as if it’s been smudged with a thin layer of grime, the lighting is an afterthought, and there are whole scenes where it appears as if they made up the camera moves as they rolled film. A quick glance at director of photography Peter Menzies Jr.’s resume reveals that every movie he’s shot is bad, with the possible exception of Die Hard with a Vengeance. That movie isn’t good but it’s such a vast improvement over Die Hard 2: Die Harder, call it a draw.

There you have it, kids. You’ve been warned.

Playing for Keeps/PG-13, 100 minutes/Regal Stonefiled 14 and IMAX

 

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