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Players fumbles as a romantic comedy

Director Trish Sie and screenwriter Whit Anderson deliver the annual Valentine's Day romantic comedy for streaming giant Netflix in Players. New York sportswriter Mack (Gina Rodriguez) has spent years devising successful hook-up "plays" with best friend Adam (Damon Wayans Jr.) and their crew, which includes co-worker Ashley (Liza Koshay) and brothers Little (Joel Courtney ) and Brannagan (Augustus Pre).

For quite some time, Mack has been following a playbook that has led her to engage in countless one-night stands. However, she is well aware that this approach comes with a strict set of ground rules, the most significant of which is that it is impossible to establish a meaningful relationship from a play. Despite this, Mack unexpectedly falls for her latest target, the charming war correspondent Nick (Tom Ellis). 

As a result, she begins to rethink the game entirely. The boundaries between work, fun, friendship, and romance blur, forcing Mack to navigate uncharted territory and figure out what it takes to go from simply scoring to playing for keeps. It's a challenging task that requires her to balance her feelings with the game's rules while trying to figure out if Nick feels the same way or if he's just another conquest.

Romantic comedies are generally not a genre that I'm not too hard on. If they follow the formula and the cast is having a good time, I can overlook the film's flaws. Unfortunately, "Players" misses the mark in a significant way. First and foremost, the plot is incredibly predictable, following the tired formula of girl meets boy, boy isn't what girl needs, and all the while, her true soul mate was right in front of her eyes. 

"Players" fails to deliver unexpected turns or genuinely touching moments that could lift the plot beyond clichés. Every scene follows a formulaic checklist of romantic comedy tropes, leaving little space for authentic character growth or creative storytelling. Now, I will give credit to our main characters, portrayed by Gina Rodriguez and Damon Wayans Jr., for having some depth and chemistry. It's a shame these talents have to lead such a subpar film. 

However, the character Tom Ellis portrayed is a tool; I had no investment in the tired romantic scenes between his character and Rodriguez's. With interactions that felt forced and lacked authenticity, their characters rely heavily on overused romantic comedy archetypes rather than demonstrating unique personalities that both talents have shown in other films. 

Adding insult to the humor in "Players" falls flat. The very talented Liza Koshy and Ego Nwodim don't get to show their natural talent and aren't allowed to tell predictable one-liner jokes. Not to mention, their brief subplots felt underdeveloped and superficial, adding little to the overall narrative.

Ultimately, "Players" strikes out in rom-com due to its predictable plot, lackluster characters, and uninspired humor.

Final Grade: C-

"Players" is streaming on Netflix now

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