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Billy Summers: 'Playing for Keeps' allows Butler to return to romance

Dec. 14, 2012 @ 10:50 AM

The horribly charming (yes, I said that) Gerard Butler (”Law Abiding Citizen,” “300,” “Nim’s Island”) returns to the RomCom world as George, the over the hill soccer star with a heart of gold, in the new Chick Flick, “Playing for Keeps.”  

After a brief, ill-fated trip (“Machine Gun Preacher”) back into the world of Action Movies, where he first came into focus as a Persian warrior/king almost five hundred years before the first Christmas, in the sleeper hit, “300,” Butler returns to the genre that served him so well in movies like “P.S., I Love You” and “Phantom of the Opera.”

…and, the genre suits him like a well-tailored soccer jersey.

He plays a bachelor dad who realizes what he lost, while almost totally ignoring the hottest group of Soccer Moms since… forever!

Leading the bundle of beauties is the never-more-beautiful Catherine Zeta-Jones (”Entrapment,” “Zorro” movies, “Chicago”) as Denise, the on-air sports caster, who is joined by the physically intimidating Uma Thurman (“Kill Bill” movies, “Pulp Fiction,” “Batman & Robin”) as ignored housewife, Patti.

Enter into the mix, Judy Greer (“Two and a Half Men,” “Mad Love,” “Arrested Development”), who, under any other circumstances would be Top Hottie, but who plays here as the backup sex kitten, Barb.

But, alas, poor George is still in love with his ex-wife, Stacie, played by the ferociously dowdy Jessica Biel (“Stealth,” “7th Heaven,” “Hitchcock”). An Oscar should be given, this year, to the person who managed to turn Esquire’s “Sexiest Woman Alive” (2005) into such as unglamorous creature. It HAD to be CGI.

 Everything else is typical “Love Lost/Love Regained,” but still done with enough action, sexual innuendo and sentiment to be entertaining, even to the few guys who are dragged to this mainly “girls night out” feature.

On a second tier, we have the usually entertaining Dennis Quaid (“Vegas,” “Breaking Away,” “The Big Easy”), in a role that makes him look as though he is overacting, because his character is so darned overbearing.

The weak link (and I hate doing this, because it looks like I’m picking on kids) is child actor Noah Lomax (“The Walking Dead”) and although he looks a lot like him, no, he’s NOT Carl), who is horrible in his role as the son of the divorced couple (Stacie and George).

I don’t think it’s just the role, I think he stinks in this film. His bad acting actually shines through, in a movie where everything else looks good. That’s terrible to say, and yes, I know, “those who can, do, and those who can’t, write reviews,” but I have seen a lot better performances in classroom plays around Putnam County.

Another faux pas (at least to me, who hasn’t shown his chin since 1974) is the fuzz growing out of Butler’s face, the continuity of it. One minute, he has a two-week-old beard, in the next scene it’s a four-day growth. In a scene that’s supposed to be 10 minutes later, it’s back to two weeks.

He arrives at his dream job interview with ESPN, with it trimmed almost to the meat (and, although I wouldn’t, why would you NOT shave your weekly growth before the big interview?) then, later that day, it’s a five-day growth. Now, THAT’s a Manly Man.

All in all, “Playing for Keeps” is a very good romantic comedy about love and all that other mushy stuff, mixed with enough action, lust, tension (okay — not so much) and more mushy stuff, to satisfy all of those of us that still go “Aw, how cute” in public, when we see puppies in the pet shop window, or teenagers kissing under the mistletoe.

Butler may want to dance back and forth between manly films and girly stuff, but if he wants to stick with movies that make the most of his captivating smile, I think that that would be in his best interest.

…and, if those movies just happen to have some of the most beautiful women in Hollywood sashaying through them, all the better.

Billy Summers is a freelance photographer who also reviews films for the Putnam Herald. He can be reached at summers855@yahoo.com.