I tried hard to pin point exactly the thing that bugged me about this new Gerard Butler romantic dramedy. Thought long and hard and I’ve come to realize that we don’t have enough space here for me to fully explain why this doesn’t work but let’s start with the idea that the women are simply treated as sexed-up plot points and move on from there.
Butler plays George Dwyer, former soccer superstar, now sidelined by injuries. Broke and reduced to selling his own memorabilia to make ends meet, he moves to Virginia to be closer to his ex-wife (Jessica Biel) and their son Lewis (Noah Lomax). When the charming Scot begins coaches his son’s soccer team all the soccer moms (Judy Greer, Catherine Zeta-Jones and Uma Thurman) throw themselves at him, but he has eyes for only one woman—his ex-wife.
The first half-hour is, maybe not promising, but on par for this kind of movie. There’s a glint in Butler’s eye, a few giggles and Dennis Quaid, as the soccer team’s pushy sponsor has the makings of a pretty good someone-you-love-to-hate character.
Then it takes a turn.
George has unresolved feelings for his ex-wife and the movie has unresolved plot points falling from the sky like the tears of the Movie Godz who weep when movies this bad get released. When there is a large sum of money meant to be used for soccer outfits and balls is given to a broke person in the first act, that money must become a plot point by act three, otherwise it becomes a loan and therefore dramatically uninteresting. Loose ends dangle, flapping in the wind and worst of all the female characters are treated as lingerie wearing narrative devices and little else.
Seriously, someone please tell Uma Thurman to saddle up and work with Quentin Tarantino again because this rom com detour she’s taken is leading her nowhere.
It’s not he worst rom com ever—that’s because Katherine Heigl doesn’t make an appearance—but it is a sloppily made movie that relis too heavily on Butler’s trademarked eye twinkle and rakish smile. This time around, however, they’re not enough to save “Playing for Keeps.”