Playing for Keeps ★★

Gerard Butler has had a really bad few years. While he has managed to eke out a couple of good films like Coriolanus and his voice work in How to Train Your Dragon, he has mostly languished in misguided dramas (Machine Gun Preacher), laughable action thrillers (Gamer, Law Abiding Citizen) or particularly bad romantic comedies. From The Ugly Truth to Bounty Hunter, Butler has tried desperately to parlay his success into the rom-com genre and failed miserably from both a critical and financial standpoint. With Playing for Keeps, Butler inserts another failed entry into that resume. Butler plays George, a former professional soccer player who is down on his luck and only has one thing going for him: his kid. As he tries to parlay his former career into that of a sportscaster to pay the bills, he finds himself coaching his son's soccer team and tries to win back the mother of said child (Jessica Biel) while an army of soccer moms throw themselves at him. There are so many things wrong with Playing for Keeps that I almost don't know where to begin, but let's start with the fact that Butler's lead character isn't someone who is either admirable or sympathetic. He is written as a complete loser and as admirably as Butler tries to apply his charm, the film just doesn't let us like the character. The women are written as a series of cliches for Butler's character to sleep his way through while trying to prove himself worthy of a reconciliation with his ex, who Biel plays in an incredibly vanilla manner. Gabriele Muccino isn't able to make anything work in this film, which seems too unfunny to actually count as a comedy and yet doesn't have the weight needed for a drama. It just doesn't work at any single moment and the end result is 105 minutes of wasted time.