Playing for Keeps might have been an ordinary lame romantic comedy, but goopy director Gabriele Muccino (The Pursuit of Happyness, Seven Pounds) turns it into a romantic dramedy, which is far worse. Gerard Butler stars as George Dryer, a former soccer star fallen on hard times, who 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 her 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 anticlimactic. None of it works. A “keeper” this is not.