By Megan Bianco
Once upon a time, romantic comedy was a respected film genre. The flicks were even nominated and won Oscars and Golden Globes in decades past. It Happened One Night, Roman Holiday, Manhattan and Sleepless in Seattle all successfully earned acclaim as film classics as well as (or in spite of) being light-hearted rom-coms. Sadly, such films have been near extinct over the last decade. And this week, FilmDistrict’s Playing for Keeps joins the highest rank of mediocrity with the likes of films such as The Ugly Truth and When in Rome.
To score points with his estranged son Louis (Noah Lomax) and ex-wife Stacie (Jessica Biel), a former pro soccer player named George Dryer (Gerard Butler) becomes the coach of Louis’ team. But soon George becomes friends with sleazy hanger-on Carl (Dennis Quaid) and pounced on by soccer moms Denise (Catherine Zeta-Jones), Barb (Judy Greer) and Carl’s wife Patty (Uma Thurman).
Playing for Keeps is filled with stereotypes and sketchy tropes that are part of the reason romantic comedies have a bad name in today’s cinema. Butler plays yet another formulaic bachelor who doesn’t know how to get his act together and Greer, usually a charming supporting actress, comes off desperate and spastic. While the subplot involving Quaid and Thurman’s marriage is just plain gross. If there’s anything worse than a bad rom-com, it’s a bad rom-com with a wasted all-star cast.