December 7, 2012, - 4:37 pm

Weekend Box Office: Playing for Keeps, Burn, The House I Live In

By Debbie Schlussel

Nothing spectacular in what’s new at movie theaters this weekend:

* “Playing for Keeps“: This dopey, predictable, cheesy movie starring Gerard Butler and Jessica Biel was the same flat, attempted slapstick comedy you’ve seen a million times before. And despite it’s PG-13 rating, it’s filled with S-words, women in lingerie and sexual situations. The people who do the ratings are asleep on the job and have been for years.

Butler stars as a former soccer star who is now down in the dumps and struggling financially. He doesn’t have a job and is living in someone’s carriage house, the rent of which he’s yet to pay. But he makes some effort at being in the life of his young son by ex-wife Biel. One day, he finds himself recruited to be his son’s new soccer coach. There he has all kinds of parents tugging at him for one thing or another. Dennis Quaid plays a wealthy businessman who wants his daughter to sing the National Anthem before games and his son to play more. He lavishes Butler money and a Ferrari to borrow. His wife, played by Uma Thurman, as well as two other soccer moms–an annoying Judy Greer and a creepy Catherine Zeta-Jones–try to sleep with him (and the latter two succeed at that). But, soon, Butler learns that his ex–with whom he’s still in love–is getting remarried. And, finally, he begins to grow up, just as he’s also on his way to a job with ESPN.

This wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be and could have been a lot worse. But it’s bad enough. The jokes in this are gross, flat, and stupid. And not funny. And there’s nothing new here. If there is anything redeeming, it’s the relationship between the father and his son, when the father begins to grow up and eventually does the right things. But that wasn’t enough to redeem this disaster which seems like a movie best reserved for the movie pet cemeteries of January and August, not the holiday big movie month of December.

I recently read a Wall Street Journal article about Butler’s role in this movie, which asked, “Can an actor come back from playing a dad?” The question they should have asked: “Can an actor come back from playing crappy roles in crappier movies?” Judging on Butler’s career of dud after dud, the answer seems to be a resounding, “NO.”


Watch the trailer . . .

* “Burn“: This documentary about Detroit firemen (I refuse to use the politically correct “firefighters”–there ain’t a single woman in this, either, and she couldn’t do the job, a point that is strangely missing from this flick) has actor Denis Leary connected to it as an executive producer. One the one hand, it is interesting in terms of what firemen go through on a regular basis. For example, it’s quite obvious–but something I never thought of, that firemen regularly get struck with bath tubs that fall through the floors of burning buildings. That’s rough. Also rough is getting hit by falling bricks, as one fireman does, and he loses most mobility in his lower extremities, sentenced to a wheelchair for most of the rest of his life.

That and other sacrifices the firemen make are well portrayed in this film. All of them must take a second job to pay the rent, and in the particular unit that is the focus of this film, many do roofing and construction jobs. And they expose themselves to danger that is unique to Detroit, which has about 80,000 abandoned homes and countless abandoned buildings. These structures are in such bad repair that the firemen are in danger whenever they answer the call to put out one of the many fires there.

Detroit has about 13 fires a night during the summer, according to this movie, and more fires set per night than even New York City, which has ten times Detroit’s population. And, yet, Detroit doesn’t have the money to provide proper equipment and working gear for the firemen. Because of that, sometimes people die, such as a young girl in a burning home who could have been saved, if only they’d had a truck with a working hose. They didn’t have one.

And while this movie makes those points and others familiar to those of us who live near the city and see these stories on the nightly local news regularly, it is a little repetitive. At only 82 minutes, it seems longer and could have been tightened up a bit. (Perhaps it is because I live near the city and am already familiar with some of the stories and tragedies.) But it is a good portrait of how the bankrupt financial condition and conduct of Detroit not only harms its residents, but costs lives unnecessarily.


Watch the trailer . . .

* “The House I Live In“: This is your typical, far-left rant against the drug war. Although there are some interesting points to be made, those were drowned by the absurd, including the far-left director and narrator of this movie Eugene Jarecki’s claim that the drug war is the Holocaust and saying “never again” (the emblematic cry of Holocaust survivors) somehow translates to ending the drug war. Huh? The claim that the drug war is “the Second Holocaust” is repeated by “The Wire” creator David Simon. Puh-leeze. I fail to see how people voluntarily doing and pushing illegal drugs is the same as my relatives being forcibly sent to death camps, gassed and cooked in the ovens, and turned into lampshades because they were Jewish. They’re not even in the same universe, nor apparently are the commentators in this movie. And if that weren’t enough, the Holocaust comparison comes in a third time, when we’re introduced to a far-left Lincoln historian with Amish facial hair, whose father, we are told, was one of the investigators and prosecutors of the Nazis at Nuremburg. And this is relevant because . . . ? Oh, yeah, I forgot, the drug war is the “Second Holocaust.” Shaking my head.

Another absurdity in this movie was the usual, predictable claim that the drug war is an attempt by White Americans in power to commit genocide against Blacks. That’s the thesis of this movie, the poster of which bears the tagline, “The war on drugs has never been about drugs.” It’s about all us evil Whiteys wanting to keep a brother down. Yeah, tell it to all the Whites now in prison for cooking meth, a primarily White enterprise. I don’t see the “Whites in power” rushing to make meth cooking and pushing legal. The movie does point out that more White working-class Americans are now in prison for such activity, and seems to go racist on itself by implying that this is the reason we should all rush home and end law enforcement of laws against illegal drugs. Oh, and by the way, our current President–now elected to a second term–is a Black man who headed “The Choom Gang” and also reportedly dealt (and definitely did) cocaine. If we really wanted to “get him,” why was he just elected to a second term? Just sayin’.

You hear the same old stuff here about how much the drug war costs America, about how drugs should be legalized and managed, how most of the prison population are drug users and pushers. Nothing new here. Sure there are a few very sad stories, such as a man who is doing life in prison for 3 ounces of drugs in his possession. He quickly tells us that this is because of a three strikes law, and says he was convicted of two other crimes that were “minor.” Would have helped if we were told what those “minor” crimes were. Instead, we are told how his sister died on her way to visiting him and that his mother spent everything she had to get him out, and she’s still trying. I felt for him and his family, and–assuming his prior crimes really were minor–we shouldn’t be paying to incarcerate this man for life. But movies like this show you the worst luck cases. And for all of those, there are also many that are open and shut cases–career criminals, pushing drugs, involved in murders and organized crime in the drug enterprise and so on.

Those of us who live in the real world know that legalizing drugs won’t end any problems, and will just create more. There will always be a black market for drugs and crime associated with it, legal or not. We will only see a rise in addiction with the ease of availability and lack of penalties. Mending it, not ending it, is the only solution. Drug kingpins and their pushers should never live and breathe easily. And they won’t just close up shop and go out of business if we legalize drugs or lessen penalties for marijuana. It’s simply a slippery slope if we do that.

Whether or not you support the drug war–and some faux-conservatives like Michelle Fraudkin want legalized drug-pushing to your kids (not hers), anyone watching this knows the movie isn’t a documentary. It’s pure advocacy of the worst kind, invoking the Holocaust three times to get us to oppose the drug wars. Sorry, I ain’t buyin’.


Watch the trailer . . .

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11 Responses

I keep telling people to boycott these trashy movies and not support the radical left that took over Hollywood.

Fred on December 8, 2012 at 12:13 pm

The House I Live In?

I guess someone’s trying to be cute. This is the title of an infamous song, sung by Frank Sinatra at the end of World War II. It was written by Commies Earl Robinson and Abel Meeropol (who adopted the two Rosenberg children after their parents were executed as Commie spies).

There was also a related post-World War II short with the same name, written by Hollywood Ten stalwart Albert Maltz. I guess the current lefties thought they were being cute, extending the comparison with the Holocaust one more notch, i.e. the first House I Live In emphasized tolerance (keeping with the Commie line about Jews and Negroes needing equality everywhere except in the so-called Soviet Union) after the Holocaust, and the second House I Live In compares the drug war (I guess the second Holocaust, trivializing the real one) with the real Holocaust.

Cleverness with no intellectual substance.

Little Al on December 8, 2012 at 12:37 pm

Isn’t this the same Gerald Butler who, in an interview, admitted he was, before his rise to stardom, a street hustler of gay-sex in Hollywood? No problem with his assimilation!

Rochelle on December 8, 2012 at 5:40 pm

    From his IMDB profile: Butler went on to attend Glasgow University, where he studied to be a lawyer/solicitor. He was president of the school’s law society thanks to his outgoing personality and great social skills.

    So if there’s a word of truth to that legend of street hustling, then it sounds like a good foundation for a prostitute/lawyer joke!

    But aside from that, Butler’s movies aren’t ALL bad, even if he isn’t so great. There’s the highly lauded 300 (not a big fan myself), but Debbie did give Nim’s Island a favorable review. Phantom of the Opera deserved a better phantom, but Dear Frankie was reasonably enjoyable, and How to Train Your Dragon was one of the best family movies I’ve seen in the past 10 years.

    Robert on December 9, 2012 at 3:51 am

      My bad, Robert! I confused him with another actor who does that type of casting! my apologies !. ! .!

      Rochelle on December 9, 2012 at 2:58 pm

Gosh, skeezy Gerard Butler has been boring movie-goers since 2000. I keep wishing he’ll go away. He gives me the creeps. He’s got the acting chops of a cute but severely retarded woodland creature. I avoid his crappy films like the plague!

Skunky on December 8, 2012 at 11:57 pm

If drug addicts didn’t rob, murder and steal to get their drugs I could muster a tiny bit of sympathy for them.
But when it’s your house that is getting trashed by drugged up crack heads then you’ll understand why they deserve no sympathy.
I had to stare down the barrel of a gun when a crackhead broke into my house. Yes, that man deserves to spend many years in prison.
Nobody is putting a gun to their heads making them smoke crack or shoot heroin.
God is merciful and forgiving, but you still have to pay for your bad decisions.
If we have to lock up 50% of the population I don’t care.
If that 50% is not able to live in society without robbing and killing, lock them up.

Steve G. on December 9, 2012 at 11:12 pm

One could always genetically engineer a virus that kills coca plants..

Canadian Steve on December 10, 2012 at 7:21 am


My company does some work with local fire districts and we get to know some of the fire fighters well.

Their little slogan is “eat to sleep and sleep to eat.”

In the boonies of NW Florida we are not union, but the skill level of our fireman is excellent. They are highly trained on a regular basis and practice what the preach.

The sad truth of their profession: Every time they get on the truck to report to a fire they may be injured or they may not be coming back.

Thanks for the movie review.

panhandle on December 10, 2012 at 10:36 am

There is also another–and much better–advocacy for drug legalization.

Law Enforcement Against Prohibition

Simply put, if alcohol is legal, no rational argument can be made against drug legalization, and certainly not one still supporting the abortive “War on Drugs.”

Deb is correct about the Leftie origins of “House” movie, but dead wrong about drug legalization.

Easiest argument against prohibition: Go to any maximum security prison in the US–a totally controlled environment, and you can get any kind of drug there you want. Still expect it to work on the open streets?

What a pathetic waste of time, resources, and talent. A boon for prisons and defense lawyers, and that’s about it.

Take what you would save on law enforcement, and put it into rehab.

Red Ryder on December 10, 2012 at 1:45 pm

I do owe some thanks to this movie. Instead of having to sit through all of The Collection with my gore-crazy sister, I only had to sit through an hour of this boring, awkward, lame turd of a movie.

Robert on December 14, 2012 at 3:39 pm

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