Character not what you’d call a dynamo
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,