"PLAYING FOR KEEPS" — ★★1/2 — Gerard Butler, Jessica Biel, Uma Thurman, Catherine Zeta-Jones and Dennis Quaid; PG-13 (some sexual situations, language and a brief, intense image); in general release
Gerard Butler is absolutely believable as George, a former professional soccer player struggling to establish a post-soccer life. He's down and out, divorced from his beautiful wife and trying not to be a total flake when it comes to being a father to his adoring son.
Like many former players, he sees a future for himself in television as a sports commentator. But so far, no luck. He's dropped off tapes, all to no avail.
Jessica Biel stars as ex-wife Stacie, who is always concerned about the relationship between George and their little boy, Lewis. George genuinely loves his son but continually lets him down. Good old dad does manage to attend a few of his son's soccer games and is frustrated that the coach is always on his cellphone and really isn't doing anything meaningful at all. Finally, George has had it and simply steps in and starts to give real guidance. The parents are wowed and several recognize him from his illustrious glory years, including Dennis Quaid as Carl, a wheeler-dealer who isn't afraid to spread around some cash and perks to assure his kids get the proper "breaks."
George also raises the eyebrows and the temperature of several of the soccer moms, including Denise, a former sportscaster who has connections that could benefit George. Catherine Zeta-Jones smolders in this role and her interest in our hero goes a little beyond helping with his career.
But the real story in "Playing for Keeps" is about a flawed father trying to get his priorities straight when it comes to being a parent and in the process trying to determine whether there is any chance at reconciliation with the love of his life. But with the soccer moms pursing him and Quaid's shady character dragging him into all kinds of dilemmas, George can't seem to get it together.
This film is riddled with clichés and predictability and, if not for some truly touching scenes and universally relatable parenting moments, "Playing for Keeps" could have been a total wash. I have to admit, I thoroughly enjoyed Butler's character and there seemed to be some real chemistry with Biel, and Noah Lomax playing their son is adorable. But Quaid's character and his bizarre wife, played by Uma Thurman, almost ruined the film for me.
Ok, it's not great but it's kinda … cute.
"Playing for Keeps is rated PG-13 for some sexual situations, language and a brief, intense image; running time: 95 minutes.