Although romantic comedies do not rank highly on my list of “best movies” they do provide a sort of catharsis for the female soul. I suppose we’ve all been disappointed so many times in the realm of romance that watching our favorite hunky actor pour his guts out to his onscreen love interest (aka, the audience member stand in) makes us all feel a little better about our own lives.
Playing for Keeps does exactly that for its undoubtedly primarily female target audience. Gerard Butler has never been sexier playing a down on his luck ex-professional football (soccer) player/absentee father trying to make things right with his lost family. I suppose the best part of his role, as George Dryer, is that he kept his Scottish accent, what woman doesn’t fall for that? A joke the film exploits repeatedly. Although George’s sexuality is continually a focus for all the female characters in the film, it is very tame in terms of content. George is able to pull off a victim of circumstance role as the new soccer coach to his son’s team as the insatiable soccer moms continually proposition (or force themselves on) him.
As for the comedy part of this film, there was very little to laugh at, the best parts can be attributed to the kids, ala Kindergarten Cop, but that was over before the first act turning point. The majority of the film centered around George’s struggle to win back his son’s (Noah Lomax) affection and his ex-wife, Stacey (Jessica Biel), in spite of the drama surrounding his complicated dealings with soccer parents. I wasn’t feeling the chemistry between Butler and Biel, however, I dislike Biel in most films. Her tears always register as warm as a crocodile’s to me so I rarely have positive feelings about her performances.
On the other hand, Butler and Lomax had incredible chemistry as father and son, which tugs at the heart just before the film’s resolution. Did I care whether George and Stacey got back together? No, but I did care whether he would be a good father to his adorable little boy. I’ll give this film credit that it did not end with a cheesy outpouring of love, instead a possible reconciliation with no guarantees, which prevented any physical illness on my part. I recommend this film to anyone out there that is a huge Gerard Butler fan, a randy soccer mom, and/or a viewer who needs a romantic pick me up. Don’t expect award-winning acting, writing, or directing but revel in its simplistic optimism.