Review: Playing for Keeps (While the Ladies Play with Balls)

Playing for Keeps

Playing The Field was a much better title for this dull alternative to the holiday lineup. America’s go-to stud for hire, Gerard Butler, plays a retired Beckham-styled soccer star who moves from Europe to Virginia to mend fences with his wife and build a relationship with his young son. Naturally he starts his journey of discovery screwing up (going broke, missing dates with his kid, watching his ex-wife inch towards marriage with a another man) and then gets a “break” when he’s asked to coach his kid’s soccer team. Since it’s all he’s got he takes the gig, and the bribes and bonding that go with it. The soccer moms throw themselves at him, suggesting his previous days of lady killing required so little initiative they must have been corrosive to his marriage. (Why Butler and Biel’s characters divorced is evaded because we’d naturally hate him if we knew he screwed around.) Yet this isn't remarkable because all the characters and their motivations are banal at best and half drawn at worst, leading to the question: why didn’t this end up on The Hallmark Channel starring TV’s hot-tail of the moment?

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About Sara Vizcarrondo

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Sara Vizcarrondo is a freelance film critic out of San Francisco. She runs Opening Movies at Rottentomatoes, teaches film/media studies at DeAnza college and writes on film for Popdose and The SF Bay Guardian.

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