Retired Scottish soccer sensation George Dryer (Gerard Butler) has returned to Virginia to be close to his ex-wife Stacy (Jessica Biel) in order to re-establish a relationship with his young son Lewis (Noah Lomax). Circumstance and coincidence leads him to start coaching his boyís soccer team, leading him to make the acquaintance of a variety of parents including smarmy businessman Carl (Dennis Quaid), former television news personality Denise (Catherine Zeta-Jones) and the agreeably perky Barb (Judy Greer). One thing leads to another and soon George is juggling the attentions of a variety of women yet somehow remaining intent on proving to his ex that heís changed his ways and really can become the type of father Lewis would be proud to call his own.
Hereís what I wrote about this title in my original theatrical review:
ďPlaying for Keeps has all the potential in the world. It features an outstanding cast of character actors (including the unmentioned Uma Thurman, Iqbal Theba and James Tupper) and a solid director in the form of Gabriele Muccino (The Pursuit of Happyness, The Last Kiss). The behind-the-scenes crew includes crackerjack cinematographer Peter Menzies (Die Hard with a Vengeance, The Incredible Hulk), production designer Daniel T. Dorrance (The Paperboy) and veteran composer Andrea Guerra (Letters to Juliet, Nine), while the scenario itself is ripe with dramatic and comedic possibility bordering on the infinite.
So whatís the problem? The issue is that Robbie Foxís (So I Married and Axe Murderer) screenplay runs rampant with clichť and never met a melodramatic plot point it didnít want to slovenly embrace. It isnít interested in going into the complicated emotional nuances continually hinted at throughout instead content to dole out nothing but puerile platitudes. It wastes the majority of its talented female supporting cast, especially Thurman, in thankless roles well beneath their respective talent levels, and for all the times it manages to get something right there are countless more where it runs pointlessly in circles desperately searching for a reason to exist.
At the same time, the movie somewhat shockingly goes down pretty easy and isnít as difficult a sit as that description of the script might imply. Butler is at his roguishly charming best as George, while Biel walks through the film with a quiet confidence I found moderately entrancing. The scenes between father and son have kick to them, an emotional heft the remainder of the movie sadly lacks, and while the ultimate solution to our heroís problem is as clichť as they come thereís something about the way that Muccino delivers this syrupy pap that didnít cause me to choke or gag. There are laughs to be found, a couple tears that potentially could be shed an moments of warmth and heart the break through the melodramatic tedium, all of which helped make the movie gigantically more palatable than it ever would have been otherwise.
Not to say that Playing for Keeps scores. It misses the net by a wide margin, going over the goal post sailing into the crowd into the crowd in the process. This is one instance where a talented cast and a strong director are let down by a screenplay they canít begin to deal with or come close to overcoming its inherent shortcoming. The movie earns a red card for wasting its oodles of potential, and itís easy to see why distributor FilmDistrict is releasing it into theatres with little fanfare and almost nonexistent backing.Ē
Playing for Keeps isnít so much bad as it is boringly mediocre. It plays better at home than it did in the theatre, but not by much, the movie nothing more than a series of missed opportunities clothed in mundane blandness thatís remarkably easy to forget. Could have been better, could have been worse, and in the end is hardly worthy of the time it would take a potential viewer to insert the Blu-ray into the player.
Playing for Keeps is presented on a dual-layer 50GB Blu-ray MPEG-4 AVC Video with a 2.40:1/1080p transfer.
This Blu-ray features an English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 soundtrack and features optional English SDH and Spanish subtitles.
Extras here include:
∑ The Playbook: Making Playing For Keeps (8:24)
∑ Creating an All-Star Team: The Cast of Playing For Keeps (6:34)
∑ Deleted Scenes (10:17)
Not a lot to talk about. The deleted scenes are really nothing but more of the same, while the two featurettes are standard EPK-style fodder that donít add a lot to the conversation.
Playing for Keeps is immediately forgettable. It isnít terrible, and Butler plays his role with suitably roguish aplomb, but that doesnít mean I can in good conscience recommend the movie for viewing by just about anyone. Sonyís Blu-ray is impeccably produced, however, so fans Ė as few as them as there probably are Ė will not be slightly disappointed by the technical aspects of this release.