Playing for Keeps (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

February 20, 2013 by  

“Playing for Keeps” can be an entertaining rom com diversion for those who just want to sit back and enjoy, as long as you are not expecting  something too deep.  But because Gabriele Muccino is a director known for working on inspiring and deep films, “Playing for Keeps” felt like a step back.  But I do admit that I enjoyed the film for its popcorn comedy but for the most part, the film was just average.  Nothing more, nothing less.

Images courtesy of © 2011 Playing Productions, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: Playing for Keeps


DURATION: 105 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition,  2:40:1 aspect ratio, English 5.1 DTS-HDMA, English – Audio Descriptive Track, Subtitles: English, English SDH, Spanish

COMPANY: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

RATED: PG-13 (For Some Sexual Situations, Language and a Brief Intense Image)

Release Date: March 5, 2013

Directed by Gabriele Muccino

Screenplay by Robbie Fox

Produced by Gerard Butler, Heidi Jo Markel, Kevin Misher, Jonathan Mostow, Alan Siegel, John Thompson

Executive Producer: Ed Cathell III, Danny Dimbort, Avi Lerner, Trevor short

Co-Producer: Andrea Leone, Raffaella eone

Associate Producer: Danielle Robinson

Music by Andrea Guerra

Cinematography by Peter Menzies Jr.

Edited by Padraic McKinley

Casting by Denise Chamian

Production Design by Daniel T. Dorrance

Art Direction by Bob Danyla

Costume Design by Angelica Russo


Gerard Butler as George

Jessica Biel as Stacie

Noah Lomax as Lewis

Dennis Quaid as Lewis

Dennis Quaid as Carl

Uma Thurman as Patti

Catherine Zeta-Jones as Denise

James Tupper as Matt

Judy Greer as Barb

A retired soccer star attempts to rebuild the relationship with his son and ex-wife by coaching the soccer team.

From director Gabriele Muccino (“The Pursuit of Happyness”, “Seven Pounds”, “Remember Me, My Love”) and writer Robbie Fox (“In the Army Now”, “So I Married an Axe Murder”) comes the romantic comedy with an all star cast.

Starring in the film are Gerard Butler (“300”, “RocknRolla”, “The Phantom of the Opera”), Jessica Biel (“The Illusionist”, “The A-Team”, “Total Recall”), Dennis Quaid (“The Day After Tomorrow”, “Vantage Point”, “Frequency”), Uma Thurman (“Kill Bill: Vol. 1”, “Pulp Fiction”, “Gattaca”, “Batman & Robin”), Catherine Zeta-Jones (“Ocean’s Twelve”, “Chicago”, “The Terminal”) and Judy Greer (“13 Going on 30”, “What Women Want”, “Three Kings”).

And now “Playing for Keeps” will be available on Blu-ray and DVD in March 2013.

“Playing for Keeps” is about a former soccer star George Dryer (portrayed by Gerard Butler).  One of soccer’s top athletes who had to retire early after a major injury.

George is moving to Virginia to be closer to his son Lewis (portrayed by Noah Lomax) but life is not going so well for George as he is unemployed, behind on rent and is trying to make money by selling all of his memorabilia.  George has been practicing at home to be a sports announcer but nothing is working out as he had hoped.

Meanwhile, while trying to establish a relationship with his son, he still has feelings for his former flame and Noah’s mother Stacie (portrayed by Jessica Biel), who is getting married to her boyfriend Matt (portrayed by James Tupper), who she has been together with for three years.

George attends soccer practice for his son but notices that the coach is not at all interested and giving bad advice to the children.  This leads George to go out on the field and give the children good advice on how to kick the ball, how to practice and get the children to enjoy the sport.

The children and their parents are pleased with George going out there that they begin demanding for him to be their children’s coach.  At first he is not interested as he wants to focus on getting a job, but Stacie tells him to at least do something for their son, instead of just taking him to practice.

And so George becomes a coach for the soccer team and with word of a former well-known professional soccer player coaching a children’s team, many parents begin to show up to practice.  He receives a cash bribe from the wealthy Carl King (portrayed by Dennis Quaid) of several thousand dollars if he allows his son to be goalie and his daughter to sing before a game.  Also, the money can be used to buy the children’ new clothes and gear.

Also wanting to meet George is a divorced housewife named Barb (portrayed by Judy Greer) who wants to get closer to the coach.  Ex-sportscaster Denise (portrayed by Catherine Zeta- Jones), who wants to help George get a job as a sportcaster, for a few favors.  And Carl’s wife Patti (portrayed by Uma Thurman) who is unhappy with her controlling, jealous husband.

But for George, all he really wants in his life is to have his family back again and to be with Susie and his son Lewis.


“Playing for Keeps” is presented in 1080p High Definition (2:40:1).  The film is primarily shot outdoors and so the outdoor scenes look very good.  Skin tones are natural, colors are nice and sharp, for the most part, picture quality for this film is very good and well-detailed.  I detected no aliasing or excessive DNR during my viewing of the film.


“Playing for Keeps” is presented in English 5.1 DTS-HD MA and includes an English – Audio Description Track.  The film is primarily dialogue and music driven and is primarily a center and front-channel soundtrack.  Dialogue is crystal clear as with the music by Andrea Guerra (“Hotel Rawanda”, “The Pursuit of Happyness”, “Nine”).

Subtitles are in English, English SDH and Spanish.


“Playing for Keeps” come with the following special features:

  • Deleted Scenes – (10:17) A total of seven deleted scenes.
  • The Playbook: Making Playing for Keeps – (8:24) Producers Jonathan Mostow and Heidi Jo Markel, director Gabriele Muccino, screenwriter Robbie Fox and the cast talk about “Playing for Keeps”.  From the communication and cast working with Gabriele to having the right casting.
  • Creating An All-Star Team: The Cast of Playing For Keeps – (6:34) A featurette about casting the role for “Playing for Keeps”.


“Playing for Keeps” comes with an UltraViolet code which allows for one to download their film to a computer or on select Apple and Android devices and to stream to computers, tablets or smartphones.

“Playing for Keeps” is a romantic comedy that had potential considering its star power but in the end, was quite average.

When you watch Gabriele Muccino films you expect a film to be uplifting, deep and enjoyable.  From films such as “The Pursuit of Happyness” and “Seven Pounds”, you expect to come out of a Muccino film, feeling inspired or just feeling that you just watched something that touches your soul.

“Playing for Keeps” is a film that should have relevance in today’s society.  As many athletes who squandered their millions of dollars earned and are now in significant debt, the idea of “Playing for Keeps” came when producer Jonathan Mostow was at a soccer game for his child and in Hollywood fashion, talked to another father and they discussed, what if their coach was a former professional soccer player and the idea would eventually become a film.

But as the film could have felt inspiring by showing us how a father would go at great lengths to be with his son and his mother, his former love… the film was almost like deja vu with Mel Gibson’s 2ooo film “What Women Want” and puts too much focus on female characters who want to have sex with the main protagonist.

Yes, this is the life of an athlete…being in love with one, yet having sex with many.  And I ask myself several times during the film, “am I really watching a Gabriele Muccino” film?”.

A film that had potential of showing us an athlete who had suffered so much but finds redemption by being close to the people he loves, ends up to be what we see on ESPN or sports publications of athletes with faults and is able to have sex with a lot of women.  We know it happens, but do we want to see it on a film that is supposed to be about a father wanting to be close to his young son and his mother, his former love?

And the fact that the film goes to length of showing how he hooks up with a divorced mother, a former sportscaster and then somehow forgetting those characters after he beds them.  But then we also have a sexy but depressed wife of a wealthy business owner managing to break into his landlord’s home and his home, in hopes for a one night stand?  To a father allowing his young son drive an expensive Ferrari that doesn’t belong to him.  There are just so many scenes that make you wonder “why?” and did I mention, asking oneself, “am I really watching a Gabriele Muccino film?”.

For all it’s worth, the film is not terrible nor is it great.  It’s an average film that plays out as a popcorn action movie that you can enjoy, as long as you don’t expect anything to deep.

As for the Blu-ray release, picture quality for this film looked great on Blu-ray and the lossless soundtrack featured crisp and clear dialogue and a beautiful musical score from Andrea Guerra.  Special features were also fun to watch as the cast talked about how fun it was to work with director Gabriel Muccino but also difficult to understand what he is saying.

Overall, “Playing for Keeps” can be an entertaining rom com diversion for those who just want to sit back and enjoy, as long as you are not expecting  something too deep.  But because Gabriele Muccino is a director known for working on inspiring and deep films, “Playing for Keeps” felt like a step back.  But I do admit that I enjoyed the film for its popcorn comedy but for the most part, the film was just average.  Nothing more, nothing less.


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