Playing for Keeps is one of those rare male-centered romantic comedies. This one focuses on the family with retired international soccer star George (Gerard Butler) moving to Virginia to live close to his ex Stacie (Jessica Biel) and his son Lewis (Noah Lomax). In his attempts to mature as role model for his son, he decides to coach Lewis’ soccer team. But the lonely soccer moms threaten his attempts at maturation and winning over Stacie’s heart.
Taking a page from Silver Linings Playbook, Keeps incorporates its own cast of zany characters. Young single mom Barb (Judy Greer) throws herself at George while suffering from intense mood swings. Patti (Uma Thurman), the dissatisfied wife of wealthy Carl (Dennis Quaid), wants to have revenge sex with George to enrage Carl. And cougar mother Denise (Catherine Zeta-Jones) uses her fame as a sportscaster (he’s trying to get a job as a sportscaster while coaching the team) to lure him into her paws (or claws?). While attempting to resist these women, George learns the importance of being a father and he reconnects with Stacie, who happens to be engaged to another man.
The usual elements of the rom-com work well in this film, and the added family aspects make George a very likable lead. Biel is also surprisingly engaging in the film; maybe making this the year we take her seriously as an actress (see also: Hitchcock). Of course, nothing about this film is extraordinary, but sometimes it’s refreshing to see an amusing—if mediocre—film. You may not be amazed by Playing for Keeps, but you will feel its heartwarming effects.