EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

December 8, 2012

'Playing for Keeps' another mindless romantic comedy

Vellante's View
By Greg Vellante

---- — What is it exactly about Gerard Butler that Hollywood finds so appealing?

“It’s the accent,” Butler’s character says at one point during “Playing for Keeps,” an awfully cheesy romantic comedy that seems to imply that Butler’s rugged Scottish drawl is something that will make women weak in the knees and fill other men with envy.

Behind that bizarre accent is an unfortunate misogyny, one that is represented constantly in “Playing for Keeps” by poorly scripted soccer moms — either sex-crazed or just plain crazy — throwing themselves at former soccer star George Dryer (Butler). Dryer, meanwhile, is attempting to bond with his young son (Noah Lomax) and win back his ex-wife (Jessica Biel) by becoming the new coach for the boy’s youth soccer team.

There’s actually some charm in watching Butler’s father figure kicking the ball around with his fictional son. Then, however, the movie drowns most of its endearing factors with ugly moments thriving in the proliferation of heterosexual male fantasy.

A series of soccer moms played by Judy Greer, Catherine Zeta-Jones, and Uma Thurman gawk longingly at Butler, pulling on their collars and acting like they cannot concentrate on anything other than bedding him. Thurman takes the cake as the wife of an atrociously artificial husband (Dennis Quaid, in an even more atrocious performance). She goes so far as to break into Dryer’s home and sprawl half-naked on his bed, awaiting his arrival.

In this problematic plot, an sweet story is sacrificed — partly due to the misogyny, but also to the fact that “Playing for Keeps” is like every other romantic comedy, ever. It’s easy for viewers to figure out exactly how many formula beats need to pass before the damned thing finally ends, complete with a disastrously constructed third act in which every conflict is easily resolved by abandoning all things realistic.

Painfully predictable and predictably painful, “Playing for Keeps” is just another fabricated fantasy from the romantic comedy factory line. It breaks no new boundaries and has nothing particularly interesting to say about love, diminishing the emotion to just another plot point.

How simple would life be if it went exactly the way romantic comedies portray it?

Or maybe we’re all just missing the point because we don’t have an accent.