I have no qualms admitting I love a good romantic comedy just as much as the next girl or sensitive guy.
But there are few things less entertaining than a poorly done “rom-com.”
“Playing For Keeps” tells the story of has-been soccer star George (Gerard Butler) who tries to redeem himself in the eyes of his ex, Stacie (Jessica Biel), by coaching his young son Lewis’ (Noah Lomax) soccer team.
Predictably, the plan goes off-course as George gets distracted by myriad lusty soccer moms (Uma Thurman, Catherine Zeta-Jones, and Judy Greer) and Stacie gets engaged to the nice guy Matt (James Tupper).
Gerard Butler, starring in films such as The Ugly Truth and The Bounty Hunter, seems to have a knack for truly awful rom-coms and he certainly does not disappoint here.
His stock character is a vaguely gross, immature man-child with an awful attitude that for some inexplicable reason, women just cannot resist.
Admittedly, “Playing for Keeps” is only slightly more misogynistic than the average Hollywood movie, but that does not make it any easier to sit through the stereotypical scheming of sex-crazed middle-aged women.
The depictions of men are hardly stellar either, considering they are either womanizers pursuing anything with a pulse, or lunatic husbands with violent reactions toward anyone who so much as look at his wife.
These painfully common gender stereotypes are not even well-acted. Everyone is clearly just there to recite some lines and pick up a paycheck.
Gerard Butler, who has proven in the recent Coriolanus that he can actually be a serious dramatic actor, is wooden and unoriginal.
Biel is in the same position of merely playing her latest in a long line of rom-com love interest roles, and she cannot even do that convincingly. Every performance she gives seems even blander than the last.
Butler’s three soccer-moms — and keep in mind that Thurman and Zeta-Jones have both been nominated for Academy Awards and Greer was hilarious in the Emmy-winning “Arrested Development” — are essentially stand-ins, useful only as plot devices.
There is little to say on the script and even less on direction.
The screenwriter, Robbie Fox, is best known for the great cinematic achievement “So I Married an Axe-Murderer.”
I could perhaps scrape up a compliment by saying that Fox seemed able to keep the script on an even pace, but let us be honest: Any mediocre first-year film student could have produced this script.
Even more bizarre than getting a script from the guy who penned “So I Married an Axe-Murderer” is the choice of director, Gabriele Muccino.
Muccino has worked almost exclusively in Italian-language cinema, with the exception of two Will Smith films, the acclaimed “The Pursuit of Happyness” and the panned “Seven Pounds.”
In “Playing for Keeps,” Muccino appears to have done little more than point the camera in the right direction. So, good job on getting that part right.
At the end of the day, “Playing for Keeps” is just another cliched and uninspired romantic comedy that is designed to appeal to the lowest-common-denominator in mainstream audiences.
Given its opening weekend debut at sixth place in the box-office with only a $6 million gross (on a budget of $35 million), it seems that even the most undiscerning of movie-goers are finally weary of these insipid and unoriginal rom-coms.
“The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey” (December 14): The long-awaited prequel to the blockbuster “Lord of the Rings” franchise finally arrives. The hobbit Bilbo Baggins begins a journey across Middle Earth with thirteen dwarves led by Thorin Oakenshield and the wizard Gandalf to defeat the dragon Smaug.
Starring: Martin Freeman, Ian McKellan, Richard Armitage
“Zero Dark Thirty” (December 19th in limited release): The first woman to win an Academy Award for Best Director with “The Hurt Locker,” Kathryn Bigelow returns with another tale of war. This time, it follows the decade-long search for Osama bin Laden and the operation to kill him.
Starring: Jessica Chastain, Jason Clarke, Joel Edgerton