playing for keeps

playing for keepsReel Rating: 3 out of 5 Reels
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for some sexual situations, language and a brief intense image
Released in Theaters: Dec. 7, 2012
Genre: Comedy, Drama, Romance
Runtime: 106 minutes
Directed by: Gabriele Muccino
Cast: Gerard Butler, Jessica Biel, Noah Lomax, Dennis Quaid, Uma Thurman, Catherine Zeta-Jones, James Tupper, Judy Greer
Official Site: Playing for Keeps

I never read other peoples’ movie reviews before I write my own, because I don’t want their opinions of a movie to color my own. But sometimes while checking out the Fandango listings, I’ll notice whether the fans and critics say “GO” or “NO.”

The fans gave Playing for Keeps a resounding “GO,” while the critics said the exact opposite with a big fat “NO.” This is always interesting to me, because it’s a reminder that oftentimes the movies that critics think are great don’t really appeal to fans and vice versa.

Is Playing for Keeps a great movie? No, but that doesn’t mean it’s a horrible movie either. It has an amazing cast, touching music by Andrea Guerra, and a heartfelt story written by Robbie Fox and directed by Gabriele Muccino, who also helmed The Pursuit of Happyness and Seven Pounds. There’s some creds there.

A movie doesn’t have to be the best movie ever made to strike a chord with fans, and that’s what I think Playing for Keeps is. Even though you know where things are headed and you pretty much know how they’re going to get there, you still want to stick around to the end to see how it all plays out.

My main gripe with Playing for Keeps is that based on the trailer, you go into it thinking it might be somewhat family-oriented, i.e. distant dad wants to reconnect with son and heartwarming moments ensue. What you get instead is a distant dad who returns home to fend off sex-starved soccer moms while his son watches in horror. So it’s not really a family movie. It’s more of a grownup movie with the father-son connection as the B-story.

playing for keeps

Gerard Butler plays George, a former international soccer star who sparred on the fields with David Beckham and had a good life with his wife Stacie (Jessica Biel) and young son Lewis (Noah Lomax). We don’t know the full circumstances, but somewhere along the way, things took a turn for the worse and George and Stacie split.

Now George has relocated to suburban Virginia to try and rekindle his relationship with now 9-year-old Lewis, but he’s also still in love with Stacie, even though she’s moved on and is about to marry another guy (James Tupper). George is barely getting by, but decides to try getting a job as a sportscaster, making demo tapes in his tiny apartment while creditors call and leave nasty messages.

Meanwhile, he realizes that Lewis’ soccer team needs some help, and impulsively jumps on the field to teach kids how to play, since their coach has no idea and is always on his cell phone during practice anyway. George ends up as the main coach and quickly catches the eye of a few romance-starved soccer moms, played by Judy Greer, Uma Thurman and Catherine Zeta-Jones. I know, right? Where else but in a movie do soccer moms look like they stepped out of Vogue magazine?

Anyway, they pursue George aggressively and while he doesn’t always fend off their advances, he really just wants to have his little family back together so they can ride happily off into the sunset together.

Playing for Keeps is neither the best or worst movie of the year, but it has some touching scenes, like the moment where George and Stacie reconnect and the moment when George realizes his family is the most important thing in his life. Sometimes it’s nice to go to a movie where you know there won’t be any surprises.

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One Reel – Even the Force can’t save it.
Two Reels – Coulda been a contender
Three Reels – Something to talk about.
Four Reels – You want the truth? Great flick!
Five Reels – Wow! The stuff dreams are made of.


  1. Wow! You’re right – the trailer totally threw me off. I’m shocked that it isn’t a family-oriented flick. I think I’ll wait for it to stream because there are too many other Oscar-worthy films I want to see right now.

    • @melanievotaw It’s really odd. Like they weren’t sure which way they wanted to go, so maybe hoped to draw people in with the father-son connection in the trailer. I could practically hear people in the theater thinking, wait, which movie is this again? Am I in the wrong theater?

  2. Thanks for this review. I wanted to see Playing For Keeps when I first saw the trailer, but most of the reviews I’ve read have been pretty negative. A couple of my DISH co-workers invited me to go see it with them this weekend, but I don’t think I want to spend my money on it. I’m planning to add it to my Blockbuster @ Home queue instead, since I have that through my DISH account. That way it’ll just show up in my mailbox once it’s out on DVD and I won’t have to go out of my way to seek it out. Plus, when I’m done watching it, I can return it to the Blockbuster store down the street from my apartment for another movie in my queue. Everything about it is so convenient.


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