Film: "Playing for Keeps"; Cast: Gerard Butler, Jessica Beil, Noah Lomax, Judy Greer, Catherine Zeta Jones, Uma Thurman, James Tupper and Dennis Quaid; Director: Gabriele Muccino; Rating: **1/2
Gerard Butler's fans in India are in for a treat this season. After "Chasing Maverick", released barely a month ago, they get to see him again in the star-studded, family reunion comic-drama "Playing for Keeps".
Unfortunately, his role as George Dryer in this film, is not too far off from his previous one. This time though, he plays the motivational father to his young son, Lewis.
George is an ex-star professional soccer player trying to make a breakthrough as a sports commentator. Apart from this, his personal life too is messed up. He has been separated from his family for four years and has no funds to pay his bills. He returns to Virginia to reconcile with his ex-wife Stacy and their son Lewis, only to realize that Stacy has moved on in life. She is now engaged to marry once again, but is kind enough to permit George to spend time with Lewis.
Luckily for him, he gets roped into coaching his son's team and this appointment changes his fate. He is suddenly the cynosure of all eyes, especially, the mothers of his young students. Realizing that he is unattached and available, since he is separated from Lewis's mom, they shower unsolicited attention on him, giving this father-son bonding film a tragi-comic hue.
Gabriele Muccino executes the emotional scenes very well. In particular, the scene which touches your heart is where Lewis tugs his father and asks: "You won't leave us again dad."
It brings a lump in your throat.
Butler's character as the repentant father who passively avoids the temptresses is alluring. Noah Lomax as Lewis is charming. Jessica Beil as Stacy, the concerned mother and as Dryer's ex-wife, is simply marvellous.
The rest of the supporting cast -- Judy Greer as the weepy, clingy divorcee, Uma Thurman as the frustrated housewife or Catherine Zeta Jones as the love-lorn TV executive and James Tupper as Stacie's fiance -- are not sufficiently well-etched characters. They simply form caricatures that make them look ridiculous on screen and are, sadly, wasted.
Technical credits are good. The background score is a bit sloppy.
The script, written by Robbie Fox, though picture perfect, is fairly simple, straightforward and non-layered. The story uses sports as a mere backdrop. This one is definitely not a sports genre film and does not qualify to be a rom-com either.
It is a bit of both and yet none completely. Genre apart, it is light, easy-viewing and does not tax your mind. You get involved to the extent that you know you are watching a nice film. In the end, the film does not excel simply because the plot is too synthetic and false with the inciting moments weak and predictable.
Watch it if you like Gerard Butler. The film certainly belongs to him.