Playing for Keeps

Playing for Keeps

A washed up ex-soccer pro tries to reconnect with his young son by coaching his soccer team. Along the way, he also tries to break into a new line of work (sports casting) and win back his ex-wife.

Standing in his way are an army of poorly written, badly acted, hornier than any person ever soccer moms.

What’s a poor family rom-com hero to do?

“Playing for Keeps” is the story of George (Gerard Butler), an ex-professional soccer star who moves to the States in order to be closer to his son. George is a bit down on his luck. He’s unemployed, has creditors calling him, his landlord is after him for the rent, and his ex-wife Stacie (Jessica Biel) is about to remarry. He’s washed out.

Luckily for him though, reconnecting with his son is just the spark his life needs to start moving forward again. When he brings his son to soccer practice for the first time, it’s painfully obvious that the coach is inept and inattentive. So George hops in and starts showing the kids some things himself. His expertise and the fact that the kids are starved to actually be coached leads to a flurry of phone calls from parents asking him to accept the position officially. He’s initially reluctant, but his ex-wife gets it across to him that this is a good way to get involved with his son.

Immediately, once he starts coaching, the soccer moms begin throwing themselves at him. Practically literally. He also draws a man crush from a wealthy soccer dad, Carl (Dennis Quaid), who was a fan from his playing days. Unfortunately Carl’s wife (Uma Thurman) is more of a fan of George’s in the way the other soccer moms are. George has also been trying to break into the sportscasting arena, and one of the moms who has the hots for him (Catherine Zeta-Jones) is in position to help. Of course, she wants a piece of him in return.

So, as George attempts to reconnect with his son and his ex, he also has to fight for a new career while fighting off the lothario temptations that derailed his family life the first time around. Can he finally grow up and become the Dad he should be or will his playboy ways rear their ugly head and undermine everything he’s worked for?

Somewhere in “Playing for Keeps” is a decent little movie. Gerard Butler is a charismatic, good-looking lead who deserves much better material than what I’ve seen him getting, and even though I didn’t 100% buy into the chemistry between the two of them, I think that this was the best acting I’ve seen out of Jessica Biel (not that that’s saying a lot). She really commits, here, and submits a decent dramatic turn. It’s also a fair high concept for a family rom com. The earnest guy trying hard to earn a second chance with his family… finally able to make use of the one thing in life he’s good at (soccer) again.

Unfortunately, the film is saddled with one of the worst scripts you’re ever going to want to see. Every single supporting character is unbearably awful. I think someone must have thought it would be funny, the way the mothers of the team throw themselves at him, but trust me, it isn’t. Judy Greer (as a “Desperate Soccer Mom”) gives one of the worst supporting turns I’ve seen all year. Her weepy, needy, sexually desperate character is about as poorly conceived and acted as you can imagine. Dennis Quaid, Uma Thurman and Catherine Zeta-Jones have all taken “Seriously? This is the best you can get?” roles, here. Quaid, like Greer, is a strong contender for my year-end worst acting awards. They were both terrible. Add in the voyeuristic landlord, and the coat rack fiancée that Biel’s character is engaged to, and you have a supporting cast of characters that is universally terrible. The film moves them around the chess board with the deft hand of a walrus, as well. Every time this film actually began to connect with its family drama, one of the comically intentioned fringe characters would show up and completely derail things. It was literally, at times, painful to sit through.

Butler and Biel try their best, and certain stretches focusing on them save this movie from an outright “F”. But this movie is so poorly written and acted that I absolutely understand the 2% Rotten Tomatoes rating it currently holds.


34 thoughts on “Playing for Keeps

  1. This movie = laughable. Jessica Biel lowers any movie she’s in, and Butler should never be American. Stick to terribly violent manly stuff, or (hint hint) get around to that Rocknrolla sequel you were throwing around…

    • As terrible as this movie was, I didnt think it Biel or Butler’s fault. Biel was actually pretty decent. She was really pretty earnest here. And thankfully, they didnt try to make Butler American. Supposedly he and Biel met while she was touring the UK…. so at least they explain that away and let him keep his accent.

      • But anyone who marries JT just brings that baggage WITH them into EVERYTHING. She can’t be a character anymore, just “the girl who bagged the douchiest bag of all time.”

        Or maybe I’m just jealous of her suspiciously straight nose.

  2. “The film moves them around the chess board with the deft hand of a walrus…” LOL! wonderful line there Fogs. 🙂
    I want to see this only because it apparently incorporates my football ‘Glasgow Celtic’. I imagine it won’t feature much though? Such shame that Butler keeps getting bad scripts through his door. He does deserve better. Great write-up Fogster. It was a fun read. 🙂

    • No, it much not feature much… honestly, I’m hard pressed to recall it getting mentioned at all, though I do recall Man U getting mentioned, I believe.

      I’m completely out of the sport of soccer/football. Sorry 😦 Not big here.

      Which was actually another nitpicky thing I had with this movie. Youth soccer, certainly is very big here. But pro soccer isn’t. Yet he has a fan, and gets sportscasting offers, etc… including local coverage. I was like, what?? LOL Not really too beleievable. 😦

      • Shit! Oh well, I thought it at least mentioned my glorious team. The finest football/soccer team in the world. 😉
        Even Ruth is starting to sway on Butler now after seeing this and his numerous other poor movies. It must be bad.

    • Finest soccer team eh? You’ll never walk alone Mark 🙂

      Shame that football isnt bigger over in the US, there are certainly enough people who have tried, Pele, Beckham etc but nothing seems to convince you Americans that sometimes a draw result isnt a bad thing 🙂

  3. Not much of a surprise here now was there and I sort of feel better that you got to kick this ball of poo around after voting for it on monthly poll! Say what they will about you, you are an unflinching trooper trudging through the multiplex muck and shit to report back on the crap to avoid!

    I suddenly hear Jenny yelling, “Run Forest Run!

    • LOL. Run, Fogs, Run! 😀

      Yeah, I dont mind. I’ll suck it up and brave the crap. I discovered early on that if I only saw the movies I was interested in, my grades would skew even more lopsidedly favorable than they do now. Plus, this was the only major release this week… so… FMR needs to be fed! 😀

      I hope you and Brian have fun. Dude, I think his head might explode on this one. LOL. For real. I cant wait.

  4. You’re The Master, Dude.
    I Come In Here Expecting A Negative Review.
    I’m Leaving With A Smile AND A Giggle AND A Negative Review.
    I Love It!
    The Walrus Line Really Is Priceless. You Should Put It On A T-Shirt.
    I’d Wear It!
    hahaha 😀

    • Heh, glad people picked up on that one. I had this mental image of a Walrus clumsily slapping all of the pieces off of the board at once with his flipper. 😀 Glad it came across.

      Yeah, this one sucked. There’s no doubt. 😦

  5. I think it’s safe to say I’ll be giving this a big miss, so thank you 🙂

    That movie poster alone is also enough to convince me of a woeful lack of substance to this one. I’ve noticed that kind of design before – where the movie makers seem intent on promoting the star names and basically little else. No hint to what the film is about, just ‘hey, look! It’s got pretty people in it! Story? What story? PRETTY PEOPLE!’


    • Yup. VERY observant. Totally correct, too. You know what other poster immediately jumped to mind? This one.

      A movie that’s similarly dreck. (I havent seen it, technically, but I did suffer through “New Year’s Eve” last year…)

      The story here sucked. The core concept… ex-soccer pro coaching kids team to connect with kid is a good one, but every single “wrinkle” they threw in in order to add conflict or humor was absolutely terrible. Every side character, every humor beat… blaghhh.

  6. When I saw that poster in the theater, I had two thoughts back-to-back.

    “Hey, there’s that boxy rom-com cast portrait poster that means the movie is going to suck”.

    Then: “Wow, Gerard Butler as we’ve never seen him before: with a shirt!”

  7. I can’t do it man! I just can’t bring myself to sitting through this. Your review provides a valuable public service. Now I don’t ever have to watch this!

    • He totally deserves better material than what he’s been getting. He was easily the best part of the two movies I saw with him this year (the other being “Chasing Mavericks”)

      This was terrible though, have no doubt. 😦

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