Playing for Keeps

“Playing for Keeps” is a movie about a KIDS’ soccer team and a KIDS’ soccer coach, but it’s not a movie for KIDS. It’s PG-13. It’s a movie for soccer MOMS!

Gerard Butler is a divorced former pro soccer star. He has not done a good job of staying in touch with his son, who is about 8 years old. He reconnects with his son by becoming the boy’s soccer coach. Even though he was a cad, he still has strong feelings for his ex-wife, played by Jessica Biel.

Along the way, he is hit on by several attractive soccer moms. They are played by Uma Thurman, Judy Greer and Catherine Zeta-Jones. Catherine’s character helps him do an audition for an ESPN gig. He also gets hit on by Dennis Quaid—not for sex, but for playing time for his kid.

If you’ve ever seen a Hallmark or Lifetime movie, you can pretty much guess how this one turns out.

“Playing for Keeps” is a harmless piece of romantic comedy fluff. There are a few decent laughs and an appropriate amount of tearful regret and sappy sentimentality. Oh, and the kid is cute, too.

Chasing Mavericks

“Chasing Mavericks” is filled with gorgeous shots of the ocean and its mighty waves. Watching surfers ride those waves gives an exhilarating, vicarious thrill.

Mavericks is a challenging stretch of shoreline in northern California near Half Moon Bay that, with the right weather conditions, produces dangerous monster waves. For surfers, it presents the biggest challenge on continental US shores.

Jay, a real life teenage surfer, played by Jonny Weston learns about Mavericks from his neighbor in Santa Cruz, a grownup surfer named Frosty (also a real life person), played by Gerard Butler. Frosty becomes Jay’s guru and father figure, guiding him on getting ready physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually to take on Mavericks.

The story of Jay and Frosty is told with dramatic embellishments, but serves as a good framework for the surfing challenge. Along with Jay’s preparation to ride the big waves, the movie gives us side stories involving an absentee father, alcoholism, drug use, teen romance, teen bullying, death of a spouse, anger issues and such. There’s nothing groundbreaking in the onshore melodrama, but it does manage to depict Jay and Frosty as people with complicated lives away from the ocean.

You can probably guess how Jay’s quest to ride the big waves turns out. You may be surprised by Frosty’s remark to Jay just before he takes on Mavericks. A brief postscript provides more information about Jay’s life beyond his Mavericks rides.

Speaking as one who has lived near the beach (in Jacksonville, FL) and vacationed many times at the ocean, I loved all the shots filmed in and around the water. The beauty and the power of the ocean are stunning in “Chasing Mavericks” and the ocean is the reason to see it.

“Chasing Mavericks” is rated PG and is appropriate for preteens.