The holiday’s season newest offering is “Playing for Keeps,” a warm, likeable film featuring a star-studded cast of characters, including Gerard Butler, Jessica Biel, Uma Thurman, Dennis Quaid, and Catherine Zeta-Jones. Butler plays George Dwyer, an aging former European and American soccer star, whose life motivations seem to have fallen by the waysides now that he’s been forced out of the sport he loves by injury. Like many professional athletes entering the real world, he’s left with a difficult existential question: what does he do now?
What he hasn’t been doing is being a committed Dad to his adorable, 9-year old son Lewis, who lives with his Mom (Biel) in Alexandria. Dwyer is listless and unprepared for the challenges of quiet suburban living; meanwhile his ex-wife, tired of empty promises, is remarrying, effectively, moving on, but still wants begs him to play a role in the life of his son. Spurred on, Dwyer discovers his son’s soccer team lacks a sufficient coach, and takes over, both to be in his son’s life again, and to show his ex-wife he can be a good Dad, and person too. It’s not easy: the team’s soccer moms are high-powered Desperate Housewife types looking to score, while one of the Dads (Quaid) parades him around lavish parties as a trophy, in exchange for money, and use of a Ferrari.
The feel-good part of this is that, of course, Dwyer learns to move past the fast women-fast cars predilections of his old ways, realizing that it’s being with your family, in a meaningful way, that’s really important. Romantic comedy isn’t usually Cloture Club’s favorite genre, but we find this one to be particularly emotionally honest, and funny to boot.