Gerard Butler has fulfilled his dreams. In Playing for Keeps, he gets to star as a former Celtic football – sorry, “soccer” – player, who has accomplished almost every accolade in the sport. And one of those just so happens to have been tackling Beckham. With this extraordinary achievement, you have an idea of the level of quality this film has to offer.
George Dryer (Butler) is a former sports star living on hard times by struggling to get a job and still getting over the separation from his ex-wife Stacie (Jessica Biel) and son Lewis (Noah Lomax). After spontaneously giving his son’s soccer team a few tips, he is soon persuaded into being their full-time coach. This leads to all sorts of doors opening, most notably numerous advances from “soccer moms”. However, spending more time with his son and the possibility of getting back his wife is what really matters to him.
First of all, there’s nothing here we haven’t seen before; loveable loser father, cute responsible child, remarrying mother. Butler plays the ‘it’s-not-how-it-looks’ loser dad adequately enough; unfortunately the same can’t be said for remarrying mum Jessica Biel. She’s probably the blandest woman in Hollywood, and it’s only the energy of the other actresses, Judy Greer, Catherine Zeta-Jones (ironically looking like Victoria Beckham) and Uma Thurman, which create any sort of buzz. Although what Thurman is doing here is puzzling as it is worrying for her career.
Sadly such female talent doesn’t help when they are portrayed in such an old-fashioned light – desperate married and single mothers swooning over the handsome coach and jumping in the sack with him at will. That isn’t the main problem with this film though; a lot of the time situations occur which can’t be explained, the main one being Dennis Quaid’s wealthy, obnoxious character Carl throwing an extravagant party and giving him the keys to a Ferrari, all because he’s his son’s soccer coach.
Playing for Keeps is not particularly funny or romantic, instead made up of plenty of clichés and banality. Gerard Butler has a kick out of this role (with constant compliments from beautiful women and having a back-history of netting against England, why wouldn’t he?) but ends up scoring an own goal of a predictable tale of a father needing to sort out his life. If only someone had the right mind to sort out the script then the only laughable thing wouldn’t be how a Scottish person would constantly refer to football as “soccer”.