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December 7, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

Playing for Keeps is the sort of movie critics love to sink their teeth into — or fangs, as the case may be. The romcom hasn’t received a single decent review from a major critic. Kyle Smith, who’s an old hand at effectively panning lousy movies, slams this one with gusto: “‘Playing for Keeps is one of those movies that comes ‘straight from the heart’ — the heart of the hack screenwriter’s manual that pushes formulaic structure to cover up a lack of compelling characters, genuine emotion or actual humor,” he writes, adding: “This is an excellent way to get your script approved by studio execs who think the public can’t tell the difference between an ‘actual movie’ and a ‘rancid piece of garbage.'” Elizabeth Weitzman in the New York Daily News writes similarly: “Perhaps, if this movie fails, studios will finally accept that we all deserve better.” Ann Hornaday in the Washington Post describes it as an “impact-free watch-checker.” Manohla Dargis in the New York Times simply dismisses the movie as not “especially credible or engaging.” Taking the brunt of most of the criticism is Gerald Butler, who has had more than his fair share of flops of late, and in the movie plays a former soccer star who now spends most his time coaching his son’s soccer team. “Butler beware,” warns Liam Lacey in the Toronto Globe and Mail. “In acting as in soccer, if you keep taking dives, sooner or later you pay the penalty.” Wesley Morris remarks in the Boston Globe, “Butler simply acquits himself, and that’s not enough.” But Betsy Sharkey in the Los Angeles Times cuts him some slack. “At some point you hope the actor will find a movie that will give him the right material to make hearts truly beat faster,” she writes. “Until then, it appears we’ll have to settle for films with more flaws than his characters.”