Gerard Butler’s mailbox is where scripts rejected by Hugh Jackman, Russell Crowe, Brad Pitt and Colin Farrell go to die.
Butler’s latest putrefying corpse is “Playing for Keeps,” a movie that answers the question: Is it possible for a sex farce and a family drama to be one and the same movie?
The answer is no.
That’s the weirdest of many things that happen, or try to happen, in “Playing for Keeps.” Butler plays a washed-up soccer star who finds himself in the sack with every woman in the movie (Uma Thurman, Judy Greer, Catherine Zeta-Jones) except his ex-wife (Jessica Biel). For unexplained reasons, Butler has been out of touch with his wife and kid for four years, but he drops back into their lives to coach his kid’s soccer team, make awkward passes at his now-affianced ex and have peculiar conversations with Dennis Quaid, who plays a soccer dad who keeps dropping in on and then mysteriously vanishing from the movie.
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A few other weird things: “Playing for Keeps” wants us to believe pro soccer has become so wildly popular that pro soccer TV analysts are in huge demand. It asks us to believe that Butler, as the parent of a kid who appears to be about 9, knows so little about parenting that he asks his ex for some basic tips. It asks us to believe that Biel is not beautiful. And it asks us to believe that Biel, Greer, Thurman and Zeta-Jones would be willing to play these misogynistic nonsensical roles. (Unfortunately, evidence supports that last one.)
Contrived and phony from beginning to end, “Playing for Keeps” never does make sense of its characters, who flip and flop from scene to scene. In particular, the Butler and Biel characters change their minds so often about the directions their lives will take that only one thing is for sure: The kid they’re supposed to be raising is doomed.