'Playing for Keeps' doesn't score with audience

(Photo courtesy of FilmDistrict and Open Road Films)

Pitchforks: 1/5

Rating: PG-13

Release: Dec 7


Hollywood typically ushers in the holiday season with a mix of Christmas-themed movies, family flicks and the occasional romantic comedy.

“Playing For Keeps” has the formula for success. However, it does not take advantage of it. Dennis Quaid, Gerard Butler and Jessica Biel play the lead roles. The problem is that the stars have zero chemistry with one another and don’t seem to fit in the film.

The romantic comedy begins with brief highlights of former soccer star George Dryer (Butler). While Dryer’s life is lavish and ideal, his career took a nosedive, and there is never an explanation as to how his profession was crushed to smithereens. Dryer pretentiously basks in the glory of his wealth and success, along with his beautiful wife Stacie (Biel) and son Lewis (Noah Lomax), who shares his father’s passion for soccer.

The soccer star is displayed as a pathetic bachelor with a string of bad luck. His wild nights are spent chugging beers while dressed in a tuxedo jacket and boxers.

After constant nagging from his ex-wife to spend more time with their son, Dryer grunts from his spot on the couch and takes his son to soccer practice. Both the soccer moms and Lewis’s fellow teammates nominate Dryer as the new coach.

The scenes of soccer practice could not have been more poorly scripted. Soccer moms routinely throw themselves at the new coach, swooning over his toned body and his Scottish accent. Too many moments show various soccer moms, namely Denise (Catherine Zeta-Jones) and Barb (Judy Greer), giggle girlishly and make several attempts to seduce the new coach. Dryer becomes engrossed in the flood of attention from the women and neglects his fatherly duties.

It’s unclear as to what director Gabriele Muccino was thinking when he laid out Quaid’s screen time. It’s baffling that he is featured for a maximum of 10 minutes. Quaid, who plays Carl, an affluent man who lives lavishly with an insecure wife and provides nothing for the movie except occasional blips. He seems to be a pseudo-enemy of Dryer’s, but it is difficult to determine his role. He acts like he hates Dryer, but then invites him to networking opportunities.

As far as entertaining-romantic comedies go, “Playing For Keeps” is embarrassing and pointless. The film is overridden with clichés and cannot maintain a proper sequence of events. It was not proper to hire well-known and well-liked actors for a laughable project.

A tense meeting between Stacie and her former husband unintentionally produced a summary of the movie in a sentence: “You’re a ticking time bomb with a charming accent.”


Reach the reporter at lrogoff@asu.edu

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