Reviews For The Easily Distracted:
Playing For Keeps

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Title: Playing For Keeps

Isn't That Gerard Butler Dreamy? That's certainly what the fine folks at Open Road Films and FilmDistrict are banking on.

Rating Using Random Objects Relevant To The Film: One "own goal" out of five.


Brief Plot Synopsis: Serial philanderer and absentee father attempts to worm his way back into family's life.

Tagline: "This holiday season, what do you really want?"

Better Tagline: "Self-esteem is overrated, ladies."

Not So Brief Plot Synopsis: George Dryer (Butler) was once a formidable Scottish soccer player, but his career was shortened by injury and he now finds himself divorced, mostly destitute, and moving to Virginia to be closer to his young son Lewis (Noah Lomax). He ends up coaching Lewis' soccer team, bringing him closer to his ex, Stacie (Jessica Biel) while also carbonating the hormones of several of the other moms in attendance.

"Critical" Analysis: There are two types of people who are going to see Playing for Keeps: those who wish to gaze longingly at Gerard Butler, and the significant others they drag along. Having said that, I can't decide if Butler's looks make the movie more or less believable.

On one hand, Butler pretty much embodies the opposite of "down on his luck." At first, I thought his five o'clock shadow was supposed to convey a sense of disillusionment and loss of hope following a couple failed business ventures, then I realized it was a conscious fashion choice. And he puts his ample free time to use hitting the P90X, as the obligatory shirtless shot proves.

On the other, none of this would be even remotely plausible if Dryer looked like an actual Scottish soccer player, like Craig Winter or Colin Hendry. Even then, the presumption that dimples, an accent, and a six-pack will make any women drop her drawers regardless of age or marital status is pretty ridiculous.

At least, I hope it is.

See, I need to know that the lead in a movie like this has suffered somewhat, or gone through a personal transformation before he gets his happy ending, but that isn't the case. George screwed his way out of a decent marriage and bailed on his kid, only returning after pissing his money away. Yet his financial woes hardly play into it when his new buddy, shady soccer dad Carl (Dennis Quaid), loans him a Ferrari and gives him some walking around money ("to buy trophies," he says).

And even as he ostensibly seeks to win Stacie back, he still can't resist nailing an emotionally damaged single mom (Judy Greer) as well as a more calculating married one (Catherine Zeta-Jones). Stacie even finds evidence (albeit misleading) that George is sleeping with Carl's wife Patti (Uma Thurman), but even though it's never explained that she was one of the few women he didn't pork, she still forgives him.

Which brings us back to negative repercussions, or rather, the lack thereof. Surely Carl will expect some payback for lending George the car and money? Nope. Surely one of these one-night stands will come back to bite him on the ass (and not in a good way)? Nope.

And then there's Stacie, who may as well wear a doormat instead of a a sweater. I guess not even a big house and a kind, caring fiancé can withstand the power of Gerard Butler's ... Gerard Butlerness.

I understand how romantic comedies are supposed to work -- believe me, I've seen enough of them -- but as Van Helsing said, "we have to pass through bitter waters before we reach the sweet." Even Julia Roberts presumably had to toss a few salads before getting her happily ever after. I fail to see why "George Dryer" should be any different.

Playing for Keeps is in theaters today. I'd rather sit through the Dynamo losing the MLS Cup Finals again.

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