Love is a soccer field

A fallen sports star makes a play for his ex in this weak romantic comedy

Some movies are 100 percent polyester, yet the right actors can make the material breathe a little so that the audience wears the experience comfortably for a couple of hours. Opening this month, the Barbra Streisand/Seth Rogen vehicle The Guilt Trip belongs to that poly-genre.

And then there’s Playing for Keeps

Per Robbie Fox’s script: Onetime Scottish soccer star George Dryer, played by Butler, finds himself down and nearly out and dreaming of a career as a sports broadcaster. He has moved to suburban Virginia (the movie was shot in Shreveport, La., where the tax breaks roam freely) to be close to the preteen son (Noah Lomax) he barely knows. In various keys of Doormat, Biel does what she can to suggest a real person in the role of George’s ex, who’s engaged to be remarried. But you never know! Maybe she won’t marry that other guy. Maybe she’ll get back with the vaguely unsympathetic protagonist.

The second we see George at his son’s soccer game, coached by some loser who won’t get off his cellphone during practice, we know the score. George will replace him as coach. George will oblige a sexually aggressive and/or insecure soccer mom or two. Eventually George will wise up, put his horndoggery behind him and pursue his ex in earnest in order to make his life whole again.

The women in the film exist to prop up Butler’s fabulousness. Playing for Keeps

The director is Gabriele Muccino, who brought an effective brand of gloss to The Pursuit of Happyness but who re-teamed with Will Smith on the risible Seven Pounds. Playing for Keeps

Greer, a sparkling presence, offers two amusing throwaway bits involving her sad-sack single-mother character breaking into tears at inopportune moments. Biel’s character waits around for her ex to become slightly less of a deadbeat. The film sets a very low bar for its hero’s redemption. Butler isn’t without talent, but his smarminess is considerable, and to date his most sympathetic screen performance remains the voice of the father in How to Train Your Dragon.

Playing for Keeps ★☆☆☆☆

Suggested Next Read

“Baby Man,” the Mad Caps

Videography

“Baby Man,” the Mad Caps

By Jarret Keene

Director Ryen McPherson of Shoot to Kill (a Wendoh sister company) produces arresting videos for Las Vegas bands. Who can forget Dude City confronting bikers in a desert tavern in “Technology”? Or Candy Warpop battered by a sadistic birthday princess in “Smilefucker”? Or Deadhand blowing up the Magic Kingdom in “Places”? Add to that the image of twin pregnant blondes belly-bashing each other until one births a disco ball in blues-rock duo the Mad Caps’ “Baby Man.” Framed by a hilarious Masterpiece Theatre-esque host, the video is set in an abandoned warehouse.

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