“Playing for Keeps” is one of the least interesting films of 2012.
Despite a cast full of recognizable – and in some cases talented – people, this is a predictable piece of romantic comedy fluff that just goes through the motions. There is not one moment that you can’t see coming well in advance.
“Playing for Keeps” stars Gerard Butler as George, a former soccer star trying to reconnect with his son, Lewis (Noah Lomax), and ex-wife, Stacie (Jessica Biel).
George agrees to coach his son’s soccer team, hoping it will help the relationship with Lewis. Things get complicated when three of the soccer moms (Catherine Zeta Jones, Uma Thurman and Judy Greer) take a liking to George and try to become romantically involved with him.
This is all stuffed into a 95-minute running time, but it feels much longer than that.
Butler is better suited for films in which he is asked to slaughter the masses, rather than wooing the ladies. Jones, Thurman and Greer are respectable actresses, but their characters’ fawning over Butler quickly becomes embarrassing.
The film also features Dennis Quaid as an unbearable soccer dad.
If “Playing for Keeps” stayed with the romantic comedy stuff, it would be bad enough, but Robbie Fox’s screenplay opts to get completely sentimental in the final act – it tries to reconnect George and Stacie, which makes it worse.
By this point I was ready for an unexpected natural disaster to come swooping in and take out all these characters.
Unfortunately, that doesn’t happen, leaving a film that is firmly entrenched on my list of the worst movies of 2012.
DVD dandy of the week
This week’s dandy is “Ted” (B+), the first feature film from “Family Guy” creator Seth MacFarlane. It’s crude, silly and juvenile, and also one of the funniest movies of 2012.
“Ted” tells the story of John Bennett (Mark Wahlberg), who as an 8-year-old boy made a wish that brought his teddy bear named Ted to life.
Now 27 years later, Ted (voiced by MacFarlane) is a beer-drinking, pot-smoking, foul-mouthed womanizer who is still John’s best friend.
The friendship is complicated, however, when John falls in love with Lori (Mila Kunis), who thinks it’s time for John to become a responsible adult and allow Ted to leave for a life of his own.
The plot, which I’ll concede does start to feel a little thin by the final act, is all just buffer for a film that relies more on rapid-fire humor. “Ted” follows the same narrative structure as MacFarlane’s “Family Guy,” with a series of pop culture references and vulgar (and many times offensive) gags that hit the mark for the most part.
Some plot threads aren’t quite as sharp, although Giovanni Ribisi as a crazed stalker does supply a few laughs, but “Ted” works because the relationship at the center of the film has a surprising sweetness that gives the film an unexpected soft side.
Whether John and Ted are discussing the cultural importance of the 1980 film “Flash Gordon” or John is trying to come up with the white trash name of Ted’s latest love interest, their friendship actually feels genuine.
Wahlberg and MacFarlane deserve a lot of credit for making it work, especially Wahlberg, who approaches the role with a reckless comedic abandon, not afraid to be the butt of the joke.
That selflessness helps make “Ted” not just a bit of vulgarity that earns its R rating, but a film with a side as soft as the plush filling in the title character.
“Ted” is rated R for crude and sexual content, pervasive language and some drug use and is now available on DVD.