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Playing for Keeps (2012)

Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
Blu-ray Disc Released: 3/5/2013

All Ratings out of
Movie: 1/2
Video: 1/2

Review by Mike Long, Posted on 3/1/2013

I'm raising my children the right way, by which I mean I'm teaching them to love movies. We often watch movies together and then discuss them. So, naturally, the kids ask me a lot of questions, especially ones like "What is your favorite movie?" and "What is the best movie ever made?" (Yes, those two things can be mutually exclusive.) They also ask me about the worst movie I've ever seen. Now, that's a tough question to answer. Some movies are bad simply because the people making it didn't have any money or enough talent to make something worth watching. Then, there's a whole other category of bad where the filmmakers had the resources necessary, and still couldn't make a decent movie. Playing for Keeps falls into that latter category and I can honestly say that it's one of the worst movies I've ever seen.

Gerard Butler stars in Playing for Keeps as George, a former professional soccer player who is down on his luck. He's moved to the suburbs to be near his son, Lewis (Noah Lomax), who lives with his ex-wife, Stacie (Jessica Biel), and her fiance, Matt (James Tupper). Unemployed and living in the guest house of a mansion, George hopes to get a break in sports broadcasting. He visits Lewis' soccer practice one day, and after showing the kids some skills, he's asked to coach the team. The soccer moms, like Barb (Judy Greer), Patti (Uma Thurman), and Denise (Catherine Zeta-Jones), quickly take notice of this handsome new coach, as does Patti's husband, Carl (Dennis Quaid), who likes to use his money to buy friends. As George is busy fending off the advances of the over-heated moms, Denise informs him that she has a connection at ESPN and that she can help him get a job. However, George is finally starting to connect with Lewis for the first time. Would he want to give all of that up just to be on TV?

Generally, when I come away from a movie which I don't like, I already have the talking points for my reviews laid out in my head and I'm ready to write the review. Negative reviews are actually the easiest to write, as it's much simpler to list a movie's problems. But, Playing for Keeps is so befuddlingly bad that I almost don't no where to start.

In short, the movie has two basic problems, the first of which is the story. This movie, written by Robbie Fox, whose last credit is from 1994 (and that was a Pauly Shore movie) doesn't seem to have any idea what it wants to be about. While the focus is typically on George, the movie jumps around like crazy. Is it about George, the washed-up athlete who hopes that a career in broadcasting will save him? Is it about George, the devoted father who is finally attempting to be a serious parent to his son? Is it about George, the man who realizes that he never stopped loving his ex-wife? Or, is it about George, the playboy who is seduced by multiple suburban housewives? I guess in other hands, the movie could have encompassed all of these storylines, but here, everything feels very episodic and each scene gives the impression that someone has changed the channel and that we are suddenly watching a different movie. The story simply never gels.

The second problem is the tone. Italian director Gabriele Muccino made his name (I guess) in America with the Will Smith weepers The Pursuit of Happyness and Seven Pounds. It's clear that Muccino wants to apply that sort of emotional slant to some of Playing for Keeps and has no idea what to do wit the other scenes. The scenes in which George contemplates his future and thinks about life with or without Lewis are supposed to be heavy. The scenes with George and Stacie aren't meant to be tense, yet romantic. And then we have George's hijinks with the soccer moms. Looks, there's a woman in George's bed and he has to get her out of there before his landlord finds out. When did this movie become Three's Company? The movie seems to have multiple personality disorder (of dissociative identity disorder).

The result is a movie where we truly don't care what happens. Yes, George is meant to be a damaged character, but when he's hopping into the sack with every stay-at-home mom, it's hard to have pity when Stacie dismisses him or Lewis gets angry with him. And the way in which George takes advantage of Carl's gifts doesn't exactly endear him either. And what is this movie saying about women with the way that they can't control themselves? The movie is capped off by an ending which rings hollow and appears to be yet another message from Hollywood that everything will be OK as long as you have love. The biggest question about Playing for Keeps is how did all of these actors -- which includes an Oscar winner, an Oscar nominee, and a Golden Globe nominee -- get involved in this film? I can only imagine that the script read as trite as the final product. Given the talent involved, Playing for Keeps should have at the very least, been mediocre. But we are left with a movie which is both insulting and ludicrous.

Playing for Keeps shows the best way to break the law with a child in the car on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of Sony Pictures Home Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs an average of 25 Mbps. The picture is sharp and clear, showing no overt grain and no defects from the source material. The colors look very good, most notably the green grass of the soccer field or the red Ferrari, and the image is never overly dark or bright. The picture shows a nice amount of depth, especially in the soccer game scenes, as the players run back-and-forth. The level of detail is good as well. The Disc carries a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 4.0 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The stereo effects show good separation and they work well doing the soccer match, as we get audio form the left and right channels. These scenes also offer notable surround sound effects from the crowd noise. Other than some musical notes, I didn't notice much subwoofer action.

The Playing for Keeps Blu-ray Disc contains a few extras. The Disc offers seven DELETED SCENES which run about 10 minutes. These are simply more dialogue scenes which hammer home the same ideas and themes, so we don't get any new characters or subplots here. "The Playbook: Making Playing for Keeps" (8 minutes) offers comments with the cast and filmmakers who talk about the story, the director, and the environment on the set. There is also a discussion of the soccer training which went into the movie. "Creating an All-Star Team: The Cast of Playing for Keeps" (7 minutes) gives an overview of the characters and how the cast of recognizable actors was brought on board.

Review by Mike Long. Copyright 2013.