Review: Playing for Keeps (2012)

Playing for Keeps (2012)

In Playing for Keeps, a retired and penniless Scottish soccer star (Gerard Butler) moves to a small town to reunite with his 9 yo son and soon-to-be-remarried ex-wife (Jessica Biel). He ends up coaching his son’s team on the way to becoming a responsible adult male and finding a new career as a sportscaster.

Gerard Butler is as charismatic as ever and gets to speak in his natural Scottish accent. The soccer play is pretty good; it is clear that the U10 players all know the game. Butler put in “a bit of training” so that he could handle the ball and do tricks a top player would be expected to do. In the closing scenes, Jessica Biel gets to play, and she shows soccer is her sport.

The film got bad reviews, and its background gives clues on how this happened. Playing for Keeps was Gerard Butler’s second soccer movie and a project he took on in 2009, when it was originally a baseball story.

The producers (13 are listed) hired Italian director Gabriele Muccino, whose reputation pulled in an all-star cast to fill character roles. Under apparently some Hollywood business pressure, the film—which Muccino originally saw as a melodrama of the Pursuit of Happyness type—ended up being sort of a comedy with a lot of horny soccer moms making demands of Coach Butler and his fabulous abs.

Director Muccino, whose English is barely understandable, wanted this movie to be about the father-son relationship, as is his vein. In his view of the story, the availability of money and sex in the town are barriers to Butler’s growing up, and it is a challenge he must overcome to build a relationship with the son he hasn’t seen for 5 years. This lofty theme comes from a director who has 3 children by 3 women.

The more soccer movies I watch, the more I wonder how Hollywood can possibly be a business. At a budget of $35M, this is the second-most expensive soccer movie ever made. While the comedy is enjoyable, the film is confusing to watch. I saw it during its theatrical run, and at one point, I asked my husband if we were in the wrong theater, because I thought the movie was supposed to be a comedy.

I thought it was interesting that the players wore AYSO jerseys but AYSO was not in the credits. I assume the soccer mom sex drove them to disassociate from the film.

5 Soccer Movie Mom Rating = 5


Release Date: 2012-12-07 (USA)
Director: Gabriele Muccino