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The Independent Critic

Gerard Butler, Dennis Quaid, Jessica Biel, Judy Greer and Uma Thurman
Gabriele Muccino
Robbie Fox
Rated PG-13
106 Mins.

 "Playing for Keeps" Not Worth Keeping 
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On the plus side, Jessica Biel is still married to Justin Timberlake.

You have to look on the bright side, and appearing in Playing for Keeps is definitely not the bright side. In fact, it's about as dim as a romantic comedy can come these days. Biel is about the only thing about the film that's a keeper, an otherwise formulaic and awkward film featuring yet another Hollywood studio trying desperately to find a way to appropriately utilize the handsome yet cinematically bland Gerard Butler.

It's also an awkward time for Playing for Keeps to be released given that the film arrives at just about the time that film critics are screening films for awards season. In a season where we see so many holiday gems, a film like Playing for Keeps is a literal lump of coal.

Butler stars as a former soccer star who is roped into coaching his son's soccer team, a move that results in the shameless swooning of soccer moms played by the likes of Catherine Zeta-Jones, Uma Thurman, Judy Greer and, as the ex-wife with whom he still holds both regrets and an attraction, Jessica Biel.

That's Playing for Keeps in a nutshell. It's a nearly two hour reason for women, aka Gerard Butler fans, to swoon over him while the movie reinforces the seductive charms of his "guy next door" Scottish brogue while abandoning all hopes of an original thought or idea in favor of paint-by-numbers romance and sloppy filmmaking.

The film also has that almost painful feeling amidst its performances that virtually everyone here, Biel being the exception, gave up on the film and realized that this was going to be their own holiday turkey this year. Biel, despite being left with insipid material and dialogue, at least tries to keep things afloat. She fails, but she at least tries.

The only thing worse than a romantic comedy that isn't funny is a romantic comedy that is neither romantic nor funny.

If this is Playing for Keeps, let's throw in the cards and settle for divorce.

© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic