Char­ac­ter not what you’d call a dy­namo

Play­ing

Austin American-Statesman - - AUSTIN360 DAILY - D Jes­sica Biel, Ger­ard But­ler and Noah Lo­max star in “Play­ing for Keeps.” CONTRIBUTED by dale ROBI­NETTE

Thur­man, Judy Greer and Cather­ine Zeta-Jones — are am­bling along with him doesn’t hurt one bit.

This time he plays a former soc­cer star, but the main thing to know is that he plays a big hand­some Scot, which is what he is, though he has rarely been Scot­tish on screen.

His Scot­tish ac­cent is rugged and sounds as if he is enun­ci­at­ing de­spite hav­ing a golf ball in his mouth, so you know he’s tough. Now years past his glory days on the fleld, Ge­orge (But­ler) is a flsh out of water liv­ing in Vir­ginia to be close to his exwife (Biel) and young son.

Usu­ally movies are about peo­ple who des­per­ately want some­thing, but for most of “Play­ing for Keeps,” our hero doesn’t seem to want any­thing in par­tic­u­lar, but rather a lot of things a lit­tle.

He needs money and would like to flnd sat­is­fy­ing work, maybe as a sports­caster. He wants to have a bet­ter re­la­tion­ship with his son, who hardly knows him. He takes on the job of coach­ing his son’s soc­cer team, but this is no sports movie about a driven coach. And he seems like he might like to get back with his wife, but he’s not los­ing sleep over her.

Ge­orge is just not a per­son who makes things hap­pen. He’s a big lug that things just hap­pen to, and it really does take cin­e­matic charm to make pas­siv­ity in­ter­est­ing.

Be­cause But­ler looks like an efiec­tive per­son — sim­ply stand­ing there — his pas­siv­ity plays like the con­scious choice of a fel­low who could throw his weight around, but chooses not to, out of taste or po­lite­ness or an un­will­ing­ness to up­set peo­ple.

In the mean­time, all the soc­cer moms are ffin­g­ing them­selves at him.

For a triffe — one that prob­a­bly looked like one on the printed page, too — “Play­ing for Keeps” some­how at­tracted a strong cast. Per­haps the ap­peal was that ev­ery­one gets a chance to shine.

Dennis Quaid makes a vivid im­pres­sion as a touchy-feely, hy­per-emo­tional busi­ness­man. Judy Greer is very funny as a frag­ile, but erot­i­cally driven, newly di­vorced woman. Zeta-Jones plays a se­duc­tive former TV per­son­al­ity.

And Thur­man plays an un­happy wife who shows up half-naked in But­ler’s bed. Of course, he re­sists. That man is a saint.

Ac­tu­ally, with all the world avail­able to him,

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