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Keeps With the Genre


By Colin Barry
On December 7, 2012

Seeing any former superstar athlete on hard times is as upsetting as it is bizarre. You are seeing this incredible player winning game after game, championship after championship, suddenly living an average life far from the wealth that they had once had. Rarely this is seen in a romantic comedy film, but Playing For Keeps uses this idea to shape its story and plot. A genre using this idea is both unique and interesting and Playing For Keeps is a sweet and funny film that starts out very engaging, but, unfortunately, falls into a formulaic romantic comedy by the end.

Gerard Butler stars in the film as George Dryer, once a huge soccer star across Europe. He is now living in a guest house and is divorced from his wife, Stacie, played by Jessica Biel. George tries to be the best father he can for their young son, Lewis (Noah Lomax). Lewis plays soccer on a local parks and recreation team, which peaks George's interest in coaching. When he takes up the job, he finds himself at odds with the other soccer moms and dads. Despite the gorgeous single women who are flocking to him and having his luck turn around with a future career option, George wants to be back with Stacie and provide the best life for her and their son.

The best part of Playing For Keeps is Gerard Butler's performance as George. Butler is no stranger to the romantic comedy genre, but this is his best performance to date. His other roles were very one note and boring. As George, he brings charm and charisma to the character and truly makes the audience believe that this guy was on top of the soccer world. His longing after his ex-wife never appears too overly dramatic while he still brings an emotional side to the film. Butler never outshines anyone in the film, as Jessica Biel holds her own as well, playing Stacie as conflicted emotionally. The dialogue and scenes shared between the two are perfect for the romantic comedy genre.

The comedy part of the film works just as well. Granted, there are some characters who are a little over-the-top, like Dennis Quaid's character Carl or Archer's Judy Greer as the always crying, newly divorced soccer mom, but it never becomes too unbelievable. The comedy primarily comes from the children that George coaches and from all the people whom he meets from the coaching job. He very much plays the "straight man" to everyone else's antics. The story is also original in its own way, since a good portion of the film is not predictable.

Regrettably, Playing For Keeps becomes a very tired and boring story. Once the film starts to go into another direction, it becomes a typical formula. "Will they get back together and ultimately realize that they are perfect for each other no matter what?" This is a plot element that has been done to death in the genre and it really does not keep things fresh and makes it predictable for the viewer. It is unfortunate, because Playing For Keeps begins as a somewhat creative, charming, and funny romantic comedy.

In the end, the film is original and decent enough to keep some audience entertained throughout. The romantic scenes are emotional and very believable, with the sports aspect never overshadowing the rest of the film. If you can see past the last third of the story, then Playing For Keeps is worth checking out. For most, however, it is not worth keeping.

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