There are several different types of romantic comedies. There are the films that make their mark in romantic American cinema, like “When Harry Met Sally” and “Sleepless in Seattle”; there are the fun, memorable ones that my generation grew up with, like “She’s All That” and “10 Things I Hate About You”; and there are the unconventional rom-coms (“He’s Just Not That Into You,” “Friends With Benefits”) that we enjoy despite their flaws.
Then there are the dreadful, can’t-sit-through so-called romantic comedies that somehow make their way into theaters. “Playing For Keeps” is one of them.
George (Gerard Butler) is a former soccer superstar who has returned home to suburban Virginia in order to pick up the pieces in his unsteady life. He’s trying to reconnect with his young son Lewis (Noah Lomax), who currently lives with his mom, George’s ex-wife Stacie (Jessica Biel).
One day when George takes his son to soccer practice, he discovers that the coach couldn’t care less about working with the kids. George steps on the field, does some hooting and hollering and eventually takes over the team. Soon, soccer moms in the tri-county area start throwing themselves at George.
There’s Denise (Catherine Zeta-Jones), the former sportscaster who tries to help George with his fledgling broadcast career; Patti (Uma Thurman), the married housewife, who can’t stand her controlling husband Carl (Dennis Quaid); and Barb (Judy Greer), who has the blues because of her pending divorce.
Oh, and you probably already guessed it, although George is drawn to all of these women, he still has his heart set on his first love, Stacie. But, (shocker!) Stacie is recently engaged and George decides in the nick-of-time that he wants her back.
There is nothing necessarily wrong with this traditional rom-com formula, but what is wrong in “Playing For Keeps” is how the formula pans out. If I had to sit through one more minute of Butler contemplating his feelings for these women or watch him drive out of the driveway and then back into the driveway, then back out again, I was going to go nuts.
Butler really should take a break from doing rom-coms (although I liked “P.S. I Love You”) and get back to his action roots. These flawed romances aren’t doing anything for his career.
And Thurman … what were you thinking? We haven’t seen you in a great movie for a while now, and you decide to do this one? You, along with the majority of the cast, are superior to the witless plot and cheesy dialogue we have here.
The only reason this film is receiving any stars at all is because of the talented Greer. She takes a super small side character and turns it into the most enjoyable part of the film. She stole every scene she was in (which unfortunately was only in the first half of the film) and watching a movie that was centered on her character would’ve been more enjoyable than the entirety of “Playing For Keeps.”
First-time screenwriter Robbie Fox will probably be shunned from Hollywood because his messy script is just plain bad. This is a perfect example why every romantic comedy that gets tossed on a studio’s desk doesn’t need to be made! We’ve seen so many unfunny romances this year (“The Five Year Engagement” & “One For the Money”); that its core audience is starting to become unexcited about them. All of my girlfriends have absolutely no desire to see this, and their opinion was just based off the trailer alone.
Save your money and rent an enjoyable chick flick that is worthy of your time like “Bringing Up Baby,” “You’ve Got Mail” or “How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days.”