Combustible Celluloid
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With: Gerard Butler, Jessica Biel, Noah Lomax, Dennis Quaid, Uma Thurman, Catherine Zeta-Jones, James Tupper, Judy Greer, Abella Wyss, Grant Goodman, Grant Collins, Aidan Potter, Marlena Lerner, Iqbal Theba, Sean O'Bryan
Written by: Robbie Fox
Directed by: Gabriele Muccino
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for some sexual situations, language and a brief intense image
Running Time: 106
Date: 04/12/2012

Playing for Keeps (2012)

1 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Off Their Soccer

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Far worse than an ordinary lame romantic comedy, goopy director Gabriele Muccino (The Last KissThe Pursuit of Happyness, Seven Pounds) turns Playing for Keeps a romantic dramedy.

Gerard Butler stars as George Dryer, a former soccer star fallen on hard times; He moves from Europe to an American suburb to be near his son and his ex-wife Stacie (Jessica Biel). He winds up coaching his son's soccer team and attracting the attention of several soccer moms, both married and divorced (Uma Thurman, Catherine Zeta-Jones, and Judy Greer, all gorgeous, but none at their best).

George eventually gets a one-of-a-kind job offer and decides that family is more important than work, a message that, even in the current economy, Hollywood keeps shoveling our way.  And in getting that message across, "Playing for Keeps" requires much wrenching and yanking to get the characters aligned for the proper ending.

As tools, Muccino employs shaky camerawork, a wretched score, and random editing. Muccino has no idea what beats to hit: a Middle Eastern landlord is funny, and a fight over adultery photos is funny, but a child steering a Ferrari is serious. Even the "big game" is anti-climactic. None of it works. A "keeper" this is not.
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