Let me just stop you before you even ask the question, Why do you bother seeing--let alone reviewing--a movie like the new attempt at life-affirming romantic comedy PLAYING FOR KEEPS? The answer is painfully simple: because part of my job, my obligation, is to steer you and those you care about clear of this kind of drivel. And rest assured, this movie is 900 percent, often nonsensical drivel.
Let me give you an example of how this story about former soccer star George (Gerard Butler), trying to be a better man as well as a better dad, makes no sense. There's a scene deep into the movie where George arrives home late one night to find Patti (Uma Thurman) in his bed, eager to seduce him. Patti is the wife of one of George's new friends, Carl (Dennis Quaid), the father of one of the kids on a school soccer team that George coaches (his son is also on the team). It has already been established that the philandering Carl has a jealous streak when it comes to his wife, going so far as to having her followed sometimes, including the night she goes to George's house. Despite already having bed a few of the other soccer moms who have thrown themselves at him (including ones played by Catherine Zeta-Jones and Judy Greer), George rejects Patti, and she eventually leaves.
Later in the film, Carl confronts George during a game, claiming he slept with his wife and that his investigator was there that night and saw the whole thing. Assuming there was a P.I. on the case, he would have reported that Patti left un-boinked and that George never even took his shirt off. So why is Carl so angry? Simple, because (in theory but not in practice) it makes for a better comedy bit when George and Carl are rolling around on the ground during their kids' soccer game. It's not funny, and featuring a character that is borderline abusive to his otherwise faithful wife is hardly the best building block for an otherwise feather-light comedy.
And then there's the other, bigger part of PLAYING FOR KEEPS that makes no damn sense. Part of the reason George is back in his son's life again is because he wants to get back together with his ex-wife (Jessica Biel), who is on the verge of getting married to another, very nice man (James Tupper). So essentially, George is using his kid (played by Noah Lomax) to get back in his ex's good graces. At the same time, he really wants to get a sports broadcasting job for ESPN that would likely take him far away from his son, so he's really just giving the boy false expectations about having a dad around during his formative years.
If you've made it this far, you may have come to realize this movie is fucked from the first frame. I'm not sure if the problems were there at the script level or if director Gabriele Muccino (THE PURSUIT OF HAPPYNESS, SEVEN POUNDS) is to blame, but it doesn't really matter. The film tries to portray George as a guy who's just down on his luck, but every problem in his life were the result of childish behavior, poor decisions, and just not caring about other people more than he cares about satisfying himself. Even the soccer moms throwing themselves at him comes across as bad luck. Oops, George tripped and his penis just landed in these willing ladies.
I despised pretty much every minute of PLAYING FOR KEEPS, from the severely off-putting story and despicable characters to the pompous attempts at life lessons and the wholly unbelievable ending. Plus George's demo reel and resulting audition reveal he'd be a horrible sportscaster. This character truly has nothing going for him beyond good hair, which is more than I can say for this fiercely loathsome movie. Protect your friends and loved ones from this cruddy mess.