Gerard Butler is making it harder and harder for me to keep liking him. I realize that any actor with an accent is likely to find himself starring in a romantic comedy or two (save for Papa Schwarzenegger), and really there’s nothing wrong with that. But I’m starting to miss the Gerard Butler we were promised in films like Gamer. Instead we’re left with a man who seems to be stumbling from poorly written film to poorly written film, and believe me when I say Playing for Keeps is probably his worst to date. (Yes, I remember The Bounty Hunter happened.)
This time around, Butler is given the chance to play a despicable former soccer player who is trying to reconnect with his kid (Noah Lomax) after being absent from his life. Now, when I say despicable, I don’t mean in the standard “he’s going to change into a better person by the end of the film” kind of way. I mean in the “his ex-wife is getting married and he’s going to swoop in and try to sweep her off her feet in a last ditch effort to win her back” sense. Now, as romantic as that sounds, what about the guy she’s marrying? He’s not a jerk. In fact, he seems like a pretty stand-up guy. But hey, forget him, right? He’s not the movie star. It’s this sloppy attention to detail that perfectly summarizes what’s wrong with Playing for Keeps.
Robbie Fox basically writes the safest possible movie he can to lure couples still pretending to be in love to theaters. Like this film, they’re just going through the motions, never going anywhere. The script rushes from scene to scene, depicting characters that are as interesting as Doodle Jump basically trying to nail the guy whose sole source of charm lies in his accent (a fact he even brings up at one point). It’s a sloppy story with a good plot device to create trouble, but a lazy one to get characters out again. You’ll spend so much of the film scratching your head saying, “Wait a minute,” that it’s impossible to become emotionally involved with the story at all. Dennis Quaid, who is basically a glorified plot device, offers the best example: He still somehow has more character than the rest of the movie put together. I’ve never disliked him more, which somehow makes him the best part of the film.
The worst part about Playing for Keeps, though, is that it has such an incredible cast. Gerard Butler, Jessica Biel, Uma Thurman, Catherine Zeta-Jones – you couldn’t ask for a more competent collection of actors. And yet, Playing for Keeps makes every last one of them look just awful. Which I guess negates the old argument that there are no bad roles, only bad actors. Clearly there are bad directors and writers out there as well.
To be perfectly honest, I could not possibly care less about this film. I’m pretty sure you’ll nothing it too. It’s so bad that it’s not even worth hating.2012 has given us a lot of bad movies, which is probably why I don’t even care anymore. There are only a few weeks left in the year, and there are still plenty of new movies coming out that look like they’re worth the price of admission. Just forget this one; it’s not worth it, and even by the end of this review I still feel empty. I really thought that tearing this movie apart would make me feel a little better. It didn’t. I’m not sure if anything will… Maybe The Hobbit?