I saw this in the theater with my mother yesterday afternoon. I'm not going to try to tell you that Playing For Keeps is an Oscar contender (it's not) or that it's not corny, formulaic or predictable in spots (it is). It's certainly not on a par with Mr. Butler's previous films Coriolanus or Machine Gun Preacher, nor did I expect it to be.
I think that professional critics are missing the point of a film like this one. They're so busy analyzing movies frame by frame for profundity, hidden meanings and plot twists, looking for that epiphany, that they tend to forget that the rom-com genre, by definition, IS usually somewhat corny, formulaic and predictable.
I wouldn't classify Playing For Keeps as a romantic comedy and perhaps that's part of the problem. If critics went solely by the trailer, they expected pure light-hearted fluff when in actuality it's much more of a family drama with some humor sprinkled in.
Gerard Butler, Jessica Biel & Noah Lomax are totally believable as a dysfunctional family unit. George's vulnerability in some scenes will break your heart and those somber moments featuring George, Stacie & Lewis will bring a tear to your eyes. The supporting cast didn't fare as well although they did fine with what they were given to work with (I blame the writers). The only minor characters I disliked were the husband & wife played by Dennis Quaid & Uma Thurman. What an ugly couple, and I don't mean that in a physical way.
Anyway, for fear of spoilage, that's all I'm going to say about it other than I really enjoyed it and I hope you get out there to see it before it disappears.