Pop psychology writer Dan Kiley was the first to describe the “Peter Pan Syndrome”, and Playing for Keeps gives us a perfect example of this malady in its central character, “George” (Butler).
George was an international soccer superstar until his career came to a sudden end. Somewhere along the way his marriage to “Stacie” (Biel) came undone and she took his son “Lewis” (Lomax) and moved to Virginia. Now that he’s down on his luck (which isn’t fully explained) he’s moved to Virginia to be closer to Lewis and try to repair this broken relationship. He’s also hopeful of repairing his relationship with Stacie, although she’s living with her boyfriend (and will soon marry).
George goes to watch Lewis’ soccer practice and is horrified at how awful the team’s coach is. Soon he’s demonstrating techniques and before long he is the new coach. This is good because it brings him closer to Lewis. It’s also good because it brings him into the social orbit of “Carl” (Quaid), father of one of the other boys on the team. Carl is wealthy, aggressive and wants to ‘help’ George by using him to ingratiate himself with people he does business with. They are soccer fans. He also meets a former sportscaster “Denise” (Zeta-Jones) who offers to help George pursue his new dream. He wants to be a sportscaster himself. Meanwhile, George has turned the soccer team into a winner seemingly through osmosis, since we see very little of anything remotely resembling instruction of skills.
Naturally George gets offered the job at ESPN, which would require him moving to Connecticut. What happens after that regarding George, his job, his ex-wife and everyone else is so incredibly predictable that even if I were to describe it, I wouldn’t be spoiling anything.
Why someone chose to put up $35 million to make a movie that’s so insipid and devoid of redeeming value is totally beyond me. They did manage to make Jessica Biel interesting by successfully playing down her beauty. Otherwise the awful story made good actors look bad.
With the exception of Noah Lomax.
This is the young actor’s first feature film and for someone so young, he demonstrates a surprising emotional range and ability. It isn’t that he’s cute or adorable, it is that he is just doing some quality acting. Look forward to bigger and brighter things from him.