Playing For Keeps [2012]

‘Playing For Keeps’ is a new romantic comedy staring Gerard Butler, Dennis Quaid, Jessica Biel, Uma Thurman, Judy Greer and Catherine Zeta-Jones (who has finally been allowed out of Michael Douglas’ sex dungeon). The plot centres on a former footballer who has fallen on hard times and is now stuck in a small wealthy American town to be close to his son. In the typical run of things he ends up coaching his sons football team and spends his time having to deal with the glut of divorced soccer moms who want him.

I should probably just state for the record — Spoilers Ahead.

Initially — I am unsure what to make of this. It’s more of a practical joke than a film. The scriptwriter appears to have only the most rudimentary knowledge of football — if in doubt — refer to David Beckham. I don’t even like football but by about three minutes and fifty seconds in I wanted to punch each member of production in the mouth.

“Blahblah this David Beckham is how you kick David Beckham a football David Beckham blahblah soccer soccer blahblah David Beckham”

Clearly — they are trying to blind middle America with science to get this slop off the ground. But then Robbie Fox had a hand in Pauly Shores epic ‘In the Army Now’ so it’s hard to be surprised.

This film is a crippled mess — script wise it resembles what might happen if like at the end of ‘Fly 2’ a jumble of romantic comedies were teleported together and now huffing and heaving for breath it is trying to get the shotgun to its skull.

It is hard to even write about it because nothing makes sense. With a cast like that, you might expect greatness — or at least something — at the very least something. But it feels like one large contractual obligation. With actors such as Quaid and Thurman playing the orange chemical cheese equivalent of actual characters. A broken tumble of stapled together vignettes where not a single character is allowed to develop past Styrofoam join the dots nonsense that aches for the final roll of the credits.

Yeah, sure, romantic comedies are somewhat brain in bucket lalala affairs made for people who don’t want to think too much and have a few laughs and perhaps well up a few “Awwws” . And this vaguely achieves that — in that is has the substance of bubble wrap.

Butler rummages through his performance in such a way as I was left wondering if at some point between this and 300 has he suffered a stroke or bells palsy. I am unsure what is up with his face in the movie, perhaps it is the grating disease that is the script and the direction and trying to keep a straight face so his check cashes. But it — his face slouches, remains a distracting element. When you’re not focused on the fact his face actually slouches — it wobbles between an odd almost overbite and a sort of eaten all the paint chips herpderp smile that reminds you of a twelve year old whose alcoholic glue addicted father has just bought a lap dance for. Both nervous and unable to say the word boobs right because he is salivating too much.

Quaid pops up as a sleazy rich soccer dad — but the portrayal is empty, a hideous pastiche you might expect from such lame hollow homophobic affairs as ‘The Big Bang Theory’. You know it has to be both the script and the director because previous outings have shown Quaid can act and act very well.

The same goes for Uma Thurman and Zeta-Jones and a thoroughly underused Judy Greer. Although Greer is one of the few clawing highlights of this drivel. There is so little going on, so earnestly it’s hard to even have time to try and focus on the misogyny on display in this movie. The writer of this film clearly hates women on a scale I haven’t seen in quite some time. A sort of seething hatred for women drips throughout the film — it is only a matter of time before the guy who wrote this can be found down the docks mutilating the genitalia of the hookers he has killed. Which is probably not even as bad a concept as the one where female customers to this movie out there may actually buy into this shit — and that’s terrifying.

If this the runny discharge of a hateful mind and its depiction of women does not drive a teeth clenching fury into the women close to you. Then start worrying or grin happily in the fact that while we do not have flying cars we have ‘Stepford Wives’ aplenty.

At all times, you are left wondering — what? Why are they here? What fool forked out the money for a cast like this to have them do, almost absolutely nothing?

On closer inspection this film is a meandering insult. Although, because it is like a nervous Irish guy with post traumatic stress disorder apologising his way through a mildly busy pharmacy, it never quite manages to even insult properly. Leaving the vague sensation of a brief burp you might have after acceptable Thai food.

The premise and some of the scaffold within the script actually might have made for a funny film looking at rich gated American communities, desperate for sex divorcées, taking in football and David fucking Beckham. If say, Will Ferrell or any of that echelon had been allowed at the script. It is a maybe couldah naah movie where just when things look like they might get funny, the script and the director veer off like a sideways glance at her shoes from a girl in the library who doesn’t want to talk to you.

It’s rare you watch a movie that feels like it doesn’t want to be a movie or for that matter, exist.

Of course, this could be a new extension to the art form, a rare stroke of genius from a director to make films that ache that they never wanted to be made — flimsy rice paper affairs that act as stunning indictments of Hollywoods lack of respect for human intelligence. With any luck — this might be a career ending flop for the producers and anyone else involved. I’m not so much worried about the time I may have lost to this movie, as to the fact I am worried it might have given me cancer.

Originally published at 13/03/2013