Published on April 8th, 2008 | by Erich Becker0
George Clooney’s follow up to the critically praised and excellently crafted Good Night, and Good Luck couldn’t be farther from the serious tone of the historical journalism piece. With Leatherheads, about the rise of professional football in the 1920’s, comes the screwball humor and good natured sports action you’ve come to expect from Disney’s yearly releases in the genre.
Clooney stars as Dodge Connelly a player for the bankruptcy bound Duluth Bulldogs, a scrappy group of players who see their dreams crashing down when the professional football league is the laughing stock of the professional sports world and college football is where all the money, endorsements, and fame originates from. This is wonderfully highlighted in the film’s opening scenes. Connelly sees an opening in recruiting college star Carter Rutherford (John Krasinski) to save his floundering team, and the league itself.
As a subplot, reporter Lexie Littleton (Renee Zellweger) is looking into claims about Carter’s war record, thinking there could be a big story and a door to the editor’s desk involved she becomes the final piece in a quasi-love triangle between Carter and Dodge and the catalyst for the film’s climax.
As a throwback to the screwball comedies of the ancient days of cinema, Leatherheads works on many levels. The outlands setups for jokes and physical payoffs are wonderfully done, always with a smirk, and always to the point where everyone is okay afterwards. After a heated punching bout between Carter and Dodge concludes, both me are sporting a few bruises and a fat lip. The final act of the film directs attention away from the love story and the football action to focus on the revelations Lexie has discovered and their ramifications on all the principle players.
The film does have some slow points as it’s about 30 minutes overweight, some serious trimming of the script could have really saved this from becoming tedious towards the end. However the mesmerizing smile of Clooney and the comedic timing of Krasinski basically playing is role of Jim on The Office on the big screen, in the 1920’s, saves the film from the bowels of mediocrity.
As an underdog sports story Leatherheads doesn’t lend much to the genre filled with better films, but as a combination of comedy, screwball and otherwise, with a dose of romance, sharp wits, and colorful, big characters, the film excels.
The film won’t top the previous works by Clooney as a director, nor an actor, but as a change of pace from his normally serious work like Michael Clayton, its good to see the fun loving, funny Clooney on the big screen catching some pigskin and getting trounced in the mud.