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Playing for Keeps (2012)

Romantic comedies are one of my weaknesses. It’s a guilty pleasure that has resulted in memorable favorites then some were so bad they should have never been distributed. This one falls somewhere in-between – the concept is cute and seems more realistic than not, however the morals left much to be desired.

George (Gerard Butler) has lived a charmed life. A professional soccer star, over ten years after his career began, he is now being forced to retire after an injury at the age of thirty-six. Unsure what comes next, he moves to Virginia where his ex-wife, Stacy (Jessica Biel) and young son Lewis (Noah Lomax) are now living while pursuing a job as a sportscaster. Nine-year-old Lewis’ soccer team is being coached by a man who has no understanding of the game and with a losing record, George accidentally gets roped into coaching the team – all of the parents were quite impressed at the impression George made on their children. Especially the mothers which include the recently divorced, lacking-in-confidence Barb (Judy Greer), the once famous and wealthy Denise (Catherine Zeta-Jones) and forgotten trophy wife Patti (Uma Thurman) whose husband Carl (Dennis Quaid) manipulates George into being his buddy, wooing him with the perks of being his friend.

Things haven’t even begun to get complicated.

Films that blatantly degrade ethical values and consistently engage in inappropriate behavior are off-putting to conservative viewers. Particularly those of us who like the hero to be above-board; upstanding in a way we can justifiably root for him, and honorable by means that George isn’t. Taking a fresh idea with the overall picture of the movie is downgraded by the leading man’s contradicting emotions – in one breath, he’s struggling with Stacy’s decision to move on and in the other he has a wandering eye that seems to fall into the trap women set for him too often for us to forgive him. It’s just annoying.  

Masking some of the imperfections is a breezy, cute script that is actually infectious in its pursuit of being a comedy that is perhaps riddled with stereotypes but becomes a sweet romance that teaches its leading man what the meaning of love and family is. Helping to sell this idea is the cute child actor Noah Lomax whose outgoing acting and freckled face helps humanize George much like Alexis’ character in ABC’s Castle once did for the titular character. The all-star cast also is convincing to the film, mixing in some charisma, Oscar nominees and recognizable faces who are no stranger to this genre. I enjoyed Biel’s Stacy in spite of her timeworn characteristics and sans her selfish unfairness to a third party. Then there is George whose flaws number too many to keep count of. He has a kind of charm that almost makes viewers wish to forgive him – which from my point of view has nothing to do with the actor – and in most instances, we do because sappy or not, the usual outcome is what we want to see.

Approximately three-fourths of the way through the runtime, it becomes obvious that some of the plot points seem pointless and are seemingly forgotten. They are there for mere conflict as opposed to supporting or furthering the plot. Regardless of the writer in me recognizing this as a “flaw,” the part of me that is merely a viewer looking for a good night’s worth of entertainment found this one amusing. Demanding more from stories may be something everyone should look for, and yet, originality is harder than we give it credit for. That being said, Playing for Keeps is fun. It’s got a sweet ending with some likable characters that while, not a favorite, is one that will likely play on my television screen again.

(Parental review: There are two implied sexual encounters, both of which are nothing more than a one-night stand scenario. One scene shows a woman stripped down to her underwear trying to seduce a man – he refuses, sending her away. Sexual innuendo is present cropping up in the script at various points. It’s implied an unmarried couple live together. Profanity is infrequent; Lewis cops an attitude with his parent’s a time or two. The film is rated PG13.)
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  1. I feel like it has been FOREVER since Gerard Butler was in anything I was excited about seeing (this movie...I'm feeling rather "meh"). My favorite film of his is still Dear Frankie. :)

    1. Hey, Ruth! Glad you stopped in. :)

      This one was cute if nothing else, Ruth. It had its moments like every rom-com and best of all, was relatively clean with more "innuendo" than seeing everything. Aw, Dear Frankie was a sweet one. I remember it was a bit too slow-moving for my tastes (plus maybe the ending was a bit... open-ended?) but you and Melissa make me want to see it again. :)

  2. Oh man, I had the exact same reaction to this movie. It could've been so fun. Instead it was full of cliches and, like you said, totally pointless plot points that led nowhere. Sometimes I'm good at silencing the critiquer in me, but this one I just couldn't. I was disappointed.

    Oh, Ruth above mentioned Dear Frankie...that is one of the sweetest movies ever!!

    1. Didn't like George's casual flings in this scenario, Melissa. I mean, he was still supposed to be in love with Stacy and then... well, he messed up. More than once (the irony of he and Stacy's break-up was that the compromising photos she saw was the one "fling" he did not have). Anyway, I thought it was "cute" and will watch it again, just not a "classic." :)

      Dear Frankie was sweet. You and Ruth make me want to re-watch it now. :)

      Lovely of you to stop in, Melissa - appreciate your thoughts!

  3. Thanks for the review, Rissi. You're right, when the hero doesn't have many admirable qualities, it can spoil what would have been a cute movie. I can handle a hero with real flaws, but when a movie goes so far as to show immorality in action, that I have a problem with. :-)

    1. Oh, me too, Gwendolyn. I mean, sometimes if the film has charisma (this one did), I can put it aside however, this won't become a fave. I liked it though because it was "cute" and I'm a sucker for rom-coms. :)

      Movies like this make me wonder where all the good guys are. :)

  4. I was excited about this movie, but I did expect it to be a bit cheesy. I still want to see it though. :)

    1. It is cute, Angela. I mean I'll enjoy watching it now and again. Just isn't the "best" rom-com. :)


  5. Gerard Butler = Phantom of the Opera

    The. End.

    I can't see him in any other role.


    1. LOL! I like him in a select few, Jennifer. Enjoyed 'Phantom' and this one is cute. :)

  6. Hi Rissi, found your lovely blog through Goodreads! Excited to follow your reviews. :)

    I love romantic comedies and was wondering about this one. Glad I stopped by and read your review! I also noticed your post on Cinderella and Beauty and the Beast being made into movies. I'll have to tell my daughter about those ones!

    Hope to visit more. :)

    1. Hello, Cathy! How great to have you as a new follower - welcome and I hope you enjoy your visits. :)

      Playing for Keeps is cute, if not totally morally upstanding. If you see it, I hope you enjoy. :)

      Yes! We are all excited about the upcoming live-action versions of Cinderella and 'Beauty.' They have promise even in the early stages. Have you seen Once Upon a Time, ABC's weekly television show? It's really creative and intertwines all of the fairytales. Hope your daughter is as excited as we are about these adaptations! :)

      Thanks for the follow. Visit anytime. :)

  7. Why is it that Hollywood insists on making cute movies but adding all this unnecessary and yucky stuff and almost ruining the cute factor? There are so many cute movies that I really like, yet almost all of them have at least one scene if not several that could be cut from the movie and not take anything away from the viewers enjoyment of it. It's a sad testament to the world and culture we live in. :(

    That aside, I have to agree with Ruth. Dear Frankie is a wonderful movie! Although I definitely agree with you too, in that the open ending kinda disappointed me. But at least that way I can imagine exactly what I wanted to happen. ;D

    As for this one? I'm not rushing out to get it anytime soon. But if the opportunity crops up, I probably wouldn't turn it down either.

    1. Kara, you and I agree EXACTLY when it comes to the filth of Hollywood movies. It's both disheartening and awful because as you say, they would be better without these scenes (that's the real tragedy!) - and believe it or not, most people would relish a more wholesome movie. What's most sad is that young teens are watching this stuff and their parent's don't have a clue! I will say as rom-coms go, this is one of the "cleaner" - there's rarely any profanity and more implications than visuals.

      I remember liking Dear Frankie, just not adoring it. Nonetheless it was certainly one - as is Playing for Keeps - that I'd re-watch. The only good thing about open-ended films (like Dear John) is that, yes, we can "write" our own ending. Sometimes, ours are even better. :)

      If you see it, Kara, let me know what you thought. :)

  8. I know that this movie didn't get good reviews but I'm a sucker for romantic comedies too! Need to see this and rent it on redbox!
    xo TJ

    1. Hey, TJ! Usually I don't really pay much attention to what mainstream critics say to be honest as most of the time I really like these light-hearted movies. Hope you like this one also - let me know what you think.

      BTW: Your new profile pic is adorbs. ;)


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