Robbie Fox

Playing for Keeps

The romantic comedy genre is a very forgiving place for performers and filmmakers. Rom-coms are relatively cheap to produce, and like horror films (which are far cheaper) they usually get a guaranteed audience on opening weekend, so it’s not uncommon to see actors and actresses on the downward slide in Hollywood find a home there. (The reverse works too, with actors on the rise getting a bump from a successful but otherwise low-key rom-coms.) The point is it’s always interesting to see who turns up in a romantic comedy that hits theaters with no expectations. George (Gerard Butler) was a big time soccer (the football kind) player once upon a time, but an ankle injury saw an end to his career and his stardom. His family also fell by the wayside at some point, but now he’s moved to the same town as his wife Stacie (Jessica Biel) and son Lewis (Noah Lomax) in the hopes of reconnecting with them both. He’s working towards a sportscasting career but takes a gig coaching Lewis’ soccer team while he waits for a call from ESPN. George tries to rekindle a life with his wife and son, but his recurring reckless behavior, the horn-dog soccer moms and Stacie’s Baxter of a fiance (James Tupper) may just derail his dream.

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The upcoming romantic comedy Playing for Keeps may not look particularly enticing, but keep in mind that it’s written by Robbie Fox, who gave us the clever script for So I Married an Axe Murderer about 20 years ago. Of course, he followed that with a story credit on the Pauly Shore vehicle In the Army Now (which was rewritten) before disappearing for two decades — I’m only aware of one spec script he sold in 1999 for a time travel-based divorce comedy titled Twice Upon a Time, which has never been produced. He’s also done some uncredited work through his career, including rewrites on My Girl, but for the most part his output is unknown and inconsistent. Still, I thought it would be fun to go back to the beginning of his career and watch 25-year-old short film titled The Great O’Grady. Fox directed the 30-minute film in addition to scripting, and his father, twice-Oscar-nominated composer/songwriter Charles Fox, provided the score. While the IMDb listing puts its release as 1993 (the year of Axe Murderer and likely when it aired on Showtime), The Great O’Grady was a selection of both the Sundance Film Festival and the Houston Film Festival, where it was named Best Comedy Short, in 1988. This explains why the cast looks so young. Keith Coogan, who was between babysitter movies at the time, stars alongside Meredith Salenger and Tom Hodges, who you likely know by face if not name. Hodges is in Lucas, actually, and this […]

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Back in 2009, Gerard Butler was planning a romantic comedy about a baseball player returning to his estranged wife to make amends with her and his child and to coach the local little league team. It was called Slide. Now that movie is about soccer instead of baseball, it’s called Playing the Field, and (according to Variety) Jessica Biel and Uma Thurman are now on board. Director Gabriele Muccino (The Pursuit of Happyness) was always on board and still is. For what it’s worth, this doesn’t exactly sound like the typical rom-com Butler appears in on a nearly-annual basis in order to stoke the fires of his P.S. I Love You fanbase. The ladies love cool Gerard, but you’ll notice that the words ‘Aniston’ and ‘Heigl’ appear nowhere near the marquee on this one. Biel will play the ex-wife, and Uma Thurman will play one of the soccer moms. Who I’m guessing is single (if it’s one of those rom-coms) or is married (if it’s one of those rom-coms). One of the most interesting aspects of the production is the screenwriter. Robbie Fox hasn’t written for the screen in over a decade – after the double punch of So I Married and Axe Murderer and In the Army Now, he sort of disappeared, but do I want to watch a romantic comedy written by Robbie Fox? Hell yes. The man had a unique ear for comedy, and his return is a welcome one.

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published: 04.18.2014
C-
published: 04.18.2014
C
published: 04.18.2014
B+
published: 04.18.2014
A

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