‘Playing for Keeps’ (2012) a muddled $35M mess

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 year old 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.

A producer’s hot potato?

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 second-most expensive soccer movie ever made

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 (after $45M Kicking & Screaming). 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