"Playing for Keeps" employs every cliché in the PG-13 romantic comedy playbook. But the comedy is in short supply as the laughs prove to be few and far between. The end result is a big, steaming bowl of romantic mush with little connection to the relationship realities of anyone in the audience.
Hunky Gerard Butler plays George Dryer, a pro soccer star at the end of his career. His beautiful wife (Jessica Biel) divorced him years earlier because of his many affairs. Now retired, he suddenly yearns to reconcile with her and be a real father to their son. But she is about to marry someone else.
Hoping to win her back, he becomes the coach of their boy's youth soccer team. Dryer's celebrity status makes him the sudden object of desire for several local soccer moms. Uma Thurman and Catherine Zeta-Jones play the primary suitors lusting after our hero. These fine actresses are wasted in this formula plot as it lurches from one predictably awkward moment to the next.
There's lots of nonsense in this humdrum story. And it's a tedious exercise for everyone involved as we wait for love to conquer all.
'Five' a true-life shocker
A documentary can be a provocative art form. The masterful Ken Burns ("The Civil War," "The Dust Bowl") has made a heartfelt chronicle of an ugly episode in contemporary history with "The Central Park Five."
In 1989, New York City was already fraught with racial tensions when a young white woman was brutally assaulted and raped in Central Park. Within days, several black and Latino teenagers were charged with the crime. An outraged city breathed a sigh of relief when five of the boys were convicted.
Through interviews, Burns' film suggests how these five came to be brought in for questioning, "coached" to give confessions and convicted in the media before they were brought to trial.
Does anyone now remember their convictions were overturned? A decade later, an imprisoned serial rapist confessed to the crime, and DNA evidence proved it.
What's shocking is the "failure of everyone to do their jobs" — zealous detectives, eager media who weren't thorough enough to delve deeper in search of the truth.
The "Five" were no angels, but Burns makes a strong case that a combination of naiveté, politics, racism and media frenzy gave the people what they wanted — swift "justice."
It will be interesting to see the outcome of the pending lawsuits against New York City.
JOHN DEPKO is a retired senior investigator for the Orange County public defender's office. He lives in Costa Mesa and works as a licensed private investigator. SUSANNE PEREZ lives in Costa Mesa and is an executive assistant for a company in Irvine.