A retired soccer star attempts to rebuild the relationship with his son and ex-wife by coaching the soccer team.
Gabriele Muccino's Playing for Keeps
, an awkward mix of sports and suds, exists primarily to keep the Gerard Butler contingent happy. Fortunately, the Scottish actor gives a likable performance, speaks in his native brogue, and boasts the kind of lean physique that comes from back-to-back athletic pictures (in Chasing Mavericks
, he played a surfer). Though he once enjoyed a successful soccer career, Butler's George now struggles to make ends meet. The action begins after he moves to Virginia to reconnect with his son, Lewis (appealing newcomer Noah Lomax), though he's ultimately hoping to reunite with his ex-wife, Stacie (Jessica Biel), except she's engaged--and still bitter about his past infidelities. When George catches sight of Lewis's soccer coach slacking off, he steps in and wins over players and parents alike. So far, so good, except the way talented actresses like Judy Greer, Uma Thurman, and Catherine Zeta-Jones throw themselves at him registers as more pathetic than amusing. The real heavy of the piece, however, isn't Stacie's nice-guy fiancé (James Tupper), but the insanely jealous millionaire (Dennis Quaid) with the lonely wife (Thurman). If the male-female machinations feel familiar, the movie comes alive whenever George spends time with the kids, an outspoken group who recall the wiseacres of Bad News Bears
, except Muccino (The Pursuit of Happyness
) spends more time with the predictable adults and their predictable problems. But for those who just want to hang out with a handsome Scotsman for 107 minutes: Playing for Keeps
gets the job done. --Kathleen C. Fennessy