DVD Release Date: March 5, 2013
Theatrical Release Date: December 7, 2012
Rating: PG-13 for some sexual situations, language and a brief intense image
Genre: Comedy
Run Time: 106 min.
Director: Gabriele Muccino
Cast: Gerard Butler, Jessica Biel, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Uma Thurman, Dennis Quaid, Noah Lomax, James Tupper, Judy Greer

As Playing for Keeps, the new romantic comedy starring Gerard Butler (Chasing Mavericks) and Jessica Biel (Total Recall), builds to its conclusion, a character is challenged to search her feelings about one of the men in her life with this question: "Does he make you laugh?"

Good thing to consider, but unfortunately the same question could be asked about this ostensible romantic comedy: Does it make us laugh? Not really.

Playing for Keeps is more glum than lighthearted, its dialogue more clichéd than crackling, and its rooting interest in marriage more a plot convenience than a real-world plausibility. A story that sets itself up to be about a man establishing his independence and accepting the mistakes he’s made in life—and their costs—is switched out for a feel-good ending that plays entirely false and unearned.

George (Butler) is a former soccer pro well past his prime. He’s divorced, unable to pay the rent and in need of direction, but that doesn’t keep him from spending his appointed days with his son, Lewis (Noah Lomax).

During one of Lewis’s soccer practices, George steps in and rallies the team while the distracted coach walks the sidelines and carries on cellphone conversations. Seeing the boys' positive reaction to George, the team parents enlist George to take over as coach.

The story is about George finding his footing, so to speak, as the team's coach as well as in the game of life. He wants things to be the way they used to be, before he made the missteps that ended his marriage. Except this movie also wants to celebrate the way women swoon for George. He spends the first half of the film fending off the flirtations of one soccer mom after another. We’re led to believe that George is weary of such come-ons, and wise to the risks they entail (some of the women who come on to George are married). This all leads to some weak chuckles.

It's a familiar formula, used in the hope of cementing Butler as a romantic leading man. The camera certainly likes the actor, but Playing for Keeps doesn't pan out any better than earlier attempts The Bounty Hunter or The Ugly Truth at making him the next Robert Redford.

The film feels twice as long as its 106-minute run time, thanks to the aforementioned tepid first-half attempts at comedy being paired with a second half that turns morose and maudlin as George tries to piece his life back together. The key to happiness, he believes, is to rekindle his relationship with his ex-wife Stacie (Biel), even though she’s happily on the cusp of marrying her years-long boyfriend (James Tupper, Mr. Popper's Penguins), who has been more of a father figure to Lewis than George has.