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Playing for Keeps also known as “Playing the Field”

MPAA Rating: PG-13-Rating (MPAA) for some sexual situations, language and a brief intense image.

Reviewed by: Curtis McParland

Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
Adults Teens
Romance Comedy Sports Drama
1 hr. 45 min.
Year of Release:
USA Release:
December 7, 2012 (wide—2,700+ theaters)
DVD: March 5, 2013
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Relevant Issues
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troubled father trying to make up for lost time with his son

Parenting and family Q&As

TRUE LOVE—What is true love and how do you know when you have found it? Answer

Sex, Love and Relationships
Learn how to make your love the best it can be. Discover biblical answers to questions about sex, marriage, sexual addictions, and more.
Featuring: Jessica BielStacie
Gerard ButlerGeorge
Judy Greer
Dennis Quaid
Uma ThurmanPatti
Catherine Zeta-JonesDenise
See all »
Director: Gabriele Muccino—“The Pursuit of Happyness,” “Seven Pounds
Producer: Eclectic Pictures
Evil Twins
See all »
Distributor: FilmDistrict

“This holiday season, what do you really want?”

George Dryer (Gerard Butler) has a legendary past on the soccer field, but not so great a one when it comes to being a husband and father. Being a divorced man, he only gets to spend a limited amount of time with his son Lewis (Noah Lomax). But that all changes when he gets to step back onto the soccer field and coach his son’s soccer team. Through the challenges of trying to keep a strong relationship with his son and renewing a relationship with his ex-wife Stacie (Jessica Biel), George learns some lessons about the value of family, even if there are a lot of rough patches down the road.

“Playing for Keeps” is pretty much a typical romantic comedy. Only this time, the story revolves around a soccer coach being chased by soccer moms while trying to win back the affections of his ex-wife. The script is weak, the acting is sub-par, and the direction is quite sloppy at times, as well. However, if you are really into predictable romantic comedies “Playing for Keeps” may be the film for you (despite the sexual content and language that I’ll discuss in the next section).

I’ll have to give the screenwriters credit, considering that part of the story including a man being chased by soccer moms, the audience doesn’t really see much (which is quite a relief). The film is limited to three sexual trysts between George and three different women, but two of the three scenes implied sex, with the couple’s beginning to kiss before the scene cuts away (we see George in bed alone half-covered with a sheet in one scene). The third scene, however, involves a woman stripping down to her underwear, trying to seduce George. However, he resists and kicks her out of his house. We also briefly see a man in his boxers, and there are moments of sexual dialog scattered throughout the film, as well.

The script is marred with close to a dozen s-words and a handful of other profanities including d*mn, h*ll, b*tch, a**, and the British profanity “bloody.” The derogatory term “w*nker” is used a few times, as well. God’s name is abused only once or twice. As for violence, two men get in a brief scuffle, a child pushes another on a soccer field, and we get a brief glimpse of a bloody/intense moment from a sci-fi movie that a couple of characters are watching. Alcohol is consumed in a few scenes, and some characters appear to be drunk. There is also a little bribery from a character, lying, and some disrespect shown towards characters.

For a romantic comedy in this day and age, “Playing for Keeps” is actually one of the safer movies in its genre, in terms of content. However, it still has its issues in terms of vulgar language and sends messages of sexual immorality and adultery being completely acceptable.

“Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body” (1 Corinthians 6:18—ESV).

Despite the content issues, “Playing for Keeps” still displays some great messages about the importance of family and the sacrifices that one has to make to keep a strong bond with loved ones.

“But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever” (1 Timothy 5:8).

Although George is a divorced man and lives on his own, he still makes sure that his son is a big part of his life by spending as much time with him as possible. Even along the road of coaching a kid’s soccer team, being chased by soccer moms, and handling the complications of sharing his son with his ex-wife Stacie, George learns to appreciate the value of family and even discovers that true love comes straight from the heart.

TRUE LOVE—What is true love and how do you know when you have found it? Answer

The positive messages in “Playing for Keeps” are light and simplistic, but may be blurred for today’s moviegoer. However, covered up in these positive messages are moments of sexual content and vulgar language which the screenwriters could have easily avoided. Unfortunately, I can’t recommend “Playing for Keeps,” even for a DVD rental night. Instead, if you’re looking for a simple/predictable romantic comedy, you may be safe watching it edited on broadcast television. Its positive messages may be outweighed by its moral issues, but we can always remember that “We love because He first loved us” (1 John 4:19).

Violence: Mild / Profanity: Moderate / Sex/Nudity: Moderate

See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.

Viewer CommentsSend your comments
Negative—This movie would have been very good, but they had to have so much sexual content. The Dad of the young boy (Gerard Butler) becomes a soccer coach and all the mom’s of the soccer players want him, even though some of them are married. So it feels like they get off track of what the movie is really about and added inappropriate scenes that are just NOT needed. After a while, those scenes are not in there anymore, but that is after a (while). So while watching this movie I was like, oh this is a good movie… and then a sex scene… and then after that was over I was like okay no more of that. But nope another sex scene.

So, no, I would not recommend this movie. This movie is about a guy sleeping around with soccer moms, until he matures a little and finally starts to settle down.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Offensive / Moviemaking quality: 5
Crystal, age 26 (USA)
Movie Critics
…A modestly affecting reconciliation drama wrapped in a so-so sports movie by way of a misogynistic romantic comedy, “Playing for Keeps” can’t stop tripping all over itself. Returning to Hollywood filmmaking after his 2010 Italian laffer “Kiss Me Again,” helmer Gabriele Muccino doesn’t go as spectacularly astray as he did in 2008’s “Seven Pounds,” but this cluttered tale of a past-his-prime soccer player trying to win back his ex-wife and son still hits too many false notes to realize its core emotional potential. …
Justin Chang, Variety
…an all-over-the-place script (by Robbie Fox)… uneven direction. Sometimes the movie swerves toward farce, sometimes into the zone of smiley family comedy and at other times into full-on weepiness. None of it is especially credible or engaging.
A. O. Scott, The New York Times
…each of the actresses does her best with her one allotted character trait. But Playing for Keeps takes place in a tonally incoherent universe, constantly shifting between rom-com farce and mawkish family drama. The central question of the movie becomes: Can George triumph over his inability to stop hot women from throwing themselves at him? [C-]
Darren Franich, Entertainment Weekly
…a film that’s pretty much from the assembly line. [2/4]
Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times
…Aiming to be warm and funny, “Playing for Keeps” misses mark… If Gerard Butler exudes rakish charm and Jessica Biel a charming flintiness, then why is Playing for Keeps so utterly charmless?…
Carrie Rickey, The Philadelphia Inquirer
Gerard Butler’s leading man qualities can’t even save this contrived waste of time. … [1/4]
Rene Rodriguez, The Miami Herald
Playing for Keeps ends nicely. But getting there—well, it’s not all fun and games.
Paul Asay, Plugged In
Watching this all-too-predictable romantic comedy/drama, my overwhelming thought was this: Given all the great filmmakers and film projects that can’t find funding, how did this effort secure its reported $35 million for production?…
Louis Black, The Austin Chronicle

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