Playing for Keeps
Posted December 7, 2012 by Daniel Hodgson in
What We Liked:occasionally funny script
What We Disliked:characters lack development
Playing for Keeps is a porno that doesn’t show anything. What fun.
George Dryer (Gerard Butler) was once a star soccer player. Thousands cheered him on, and he was lucky with the ladies. But that was years ago. Now he’s pawning off memorabilia for small-time cash. Divorced, broke, and jobless, George lives in a two bedroom guest house not far from his ex Stacie (Jessica Biel), and their son, Lewis (Noah Lomax).
One day, George watches his son’s soccer practice. Frustrated with the clueless coach, George jumps in and gives the kids a few tips. The kids take a liking to him–and so do their moms. Next thing he knows, his ex calls him up, and tells him everyone wants him to take over coaching the team. George tries to bond with his distant son over the coming weeks, but the now single father finds himself beset with single moms and bored housewives, who compete for his attention.
Playing for Keeps couldn’t care less about soccer, cutting away from the practice sessions and games as quickly as possible. There’s little build-up to the big game at the climax, a match we can barely see. No, Playing for Keeps is essentially a sex comedy. The humor comes from watching the reluctant George weakly fending off desperate women who seduce and force themselves onto him. Poor bastard.
As far as sex comedies go, it isn’t raunchy. With its PG-13 rating, you might think you could take your kids to it (if you don’t mind the word “shit” being thrown around). They don’t show any nudity or sex acts. But Playing for Keeps remains a movie about adult situations, told from an adult’s perspective. At one point, Patti (Uma Thurman) sits seductively on George’s bed, wearing sexy lingerie, trying to talk George into it. It’s a lot of buildup to love scenes we never see. In other words, it’s all setup with no payoff. Playing for Keeps is too libidinous for kids, but too chaste for adults. There’s just no point to a watered down sex comedy. Playing for Keeps is a porno with all the porn parts cut out. What fun.
Of course, these temptations are meant to test George’s commitment to getting his family back. However, his ex just isn’t developed enough for us to care whether George gets her back or not, and the movie is too routine for there to be any doubt about which way it’s going to go; the final act just goes through the motions. The son takes after his mother, in that he’s just as generic.
Playing for Keeps does however go on at length about the backstory between George and Stacie. They talk about how things were, what they meant to each other, yada yada yada. If a movie keeps talking about what happened in the past, you have to wonder why they didn’t just make a movie about that instead. Their past means something to George and Stacie, but not to us. Playing for Keeps tells us about it, instead of showing us the part of their lives that mattered.
A satisfying story is a two part equation. The goal has to be worth getting (which it isn’t here), and the character has to be worthy of the goal. George is a has-been with no money, who walked out on his wife and four-year-old son. Now he’s broke and alone because of his choices. Does not the punishment fit the crime?