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Playing For Keeps - DVD Review

Playing For Keeps

Review by Rob Carnevale

IndieLondon Rating: 2 out of 5

GERARD Butler plays an ex-footballer looking for a second chance in romantic comedy-drama Playing For Keeps but audiences may well be crying foul over the film that results.

Far from offering a feel-good tale of redemption, as doubtless envisaged by Butler and director Gabriele (The Pursuit of Happyness) Muccino, this feels contrived and overly sentimental, while struggling to deliver a central character worth rooting for.

The film follows the fortunes of George (Butler), a former Celtic and Liverpool great, whose career is cut short by injury and who finds his life at a crossroads.

Relocating to Virgina in an attempt to re-connect with his soon-to-be re-married ex-wife, Staxie (Jessica Biel) and son, Lewis (Noah Lomax), George subsequetly starts coaching his son’s Little League soccer team but finds himself the object of desire for several of the town’s desperate housewives (including Catherine Zeta-Jones, Uma Thurman and Judy Greer), all of whom complicate his ultimate goal.

Engaging cast aside, Playing For Keeps – which is inspired by screenwriter Robbie Fox’s own experiences of coaching Little League – offers very little to recommend it.

George, in particular, does very little to warrant our sympathy, while attempts to add complexity by having Biel’s Stacie about to be married to another man (James Tupper) amount to nothing given the poorly sketched nature of that character.

Admittedly, Butler fares better when sharing scenes with his son, well played by Lomax, and there are one or two genuinely affecting scenes between the two of them.

But attempts to add some spice by having George become a sex object for several other housewives are also poorly handled – lacking in edge or raunch and diminishing the talents of the women involved (all of whom emerge as overly pathetic and needy, surely a retrograde step).

Had the film taken a few more risks, been less predictable and offered a more convincing mix of comedy and drama then Playing For Keeps could have emerged as a guilty pleasure.

But in current form, it’s a disappointing waste of talent that feels more like a wish fulfilment fantasy for its leading man. The film subsequently deserves to be shown the red card by viewers.

Certificate: 12A
Running time: 105mins
UK Blu-ray & DVD Release: May 20, 2013