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Overall Rating

Awesome: 3.03%
Worth A Look69.7%
Average: 6.06%
Pretty Bad: 18.18%
Total Crap: 3.03%

4 reviews, 9 user ratings

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by Erik Childress

"The Writers Should Have Used A Stronger Helmet"
2 stars

George Clooney has been trying to get Leatherheads made for some time now. Once set as a follow-up for him and Steven Soderbergh after Out of Sight, Leatherheads has remained sidelined for over a decade in his hands and has gone through several manifestations including a rewrite by Jon Favreau (after the success of Swingers) and a down-and-dirty sports movie dubbed “Braveheart on a football field” by once-attached action director, Jonathan Mostow. It manifested into an old-school romantic comedy that seemed like a perfect challenge for Clooney the director, already responsible for two terrific period pictures (Confessions of a Dangerous Mind, Good Night and Good Luck) and Clooney the moviestar whose considerable charms have dubbed him with the grace and affability of a Clark Gable or Cary Grant. Perhaps Clooney the writer could have given the script another polish, because whatever draft he ended up using has little of the comedy and next-to-none of the true history or editorial on professional football its evident it wanted to tackle.

In 1925, the sport wasn’t what it was today. College was king, filling the stands and creating heroes out of its star players. The pros shared the fields with cows. Dodge Connelly (George Clooney), the Duluth Bulldogs’ 45 year-old coach and player sees his team going under like many of the others in the league and hits upon a brainstorm. Forging a meeting with C.C. Frazier (Jonathan Pryce), Dodge suggests the idea of his star client, Carter “The Bullet” Rutherford (The Office’s John Krasinski), joining the Bulldogs and earning more than just a scholarship he has to give right back to Princeton. Also at that meeting is spunky reporter, Lexie Littleton (Renee Zellweger), on assignment to “cook Carter’s goose” regarding his status as a war hero who single-handedly got an entire German regiment to surrender.

Both parties get what they want out of Carter and both men have their fixation on Lexie; Dodge playing the rogue charmer and Carter as the naïve romantic straight out of The Philadelphia Story. Things get more complicated when the national hero casually admits to the truth of his war days (in the film’s funniest invention) and Lexie is burdened with completing her assignment or preserving Carter’s integrity. With each of the guys inching closer to Lexie’s heart, the film shifts gears into a second half that accentuates how muddled the credited screenplay to original writers, Duncan Brantley and Rick Reilly, actually is.

Reilly, as a decades-old sportswriter for Sports Illustrated, you would imagine be a little more keen on keeping the details of football’s history to at least a passing resemblance despite the fictionality. Expecting a full-on lesson on the origins of the AFL may be passively naïve, but when the script takes few steps to provide specifics on the differences between the college and pro game or to make us care about the players involved, concluding on a third act “big game” is a little disingenuous and is barely worthy of the term anti-climactic. Beyond not having a clear interest in the outcome, it’s a collection of what’s supposed to be a string of changes that will, allegedly, disrupt the game forever. You know, like rules. Coin tosses, penalties and no swearing during the broadcast. Is this some belabored commentary on political correctness and “the man” mucking up a game of gladiators to beef up earnings? Would seem to me that it only takes one Monday Night game as evidence that the game is more violent than ever and that players have forced the No Fun League to counter their actions with new rules, fines and behavioral observation to protect its integrity.

This final hour, already drowning itself with the extended subplot about war records and cover-ups, is where Leatherheads turns from a mediocre, though ambitious, light comedy into a frustrating experience that demands clarity. It’s ultimate money line, “We need our heroes,” should run on parallel tracks with Liberty Valance’s “Print the legend.” Yet the film never gives any indication on precisely how it views Carter and his secrets. The outcome of his service was the same, and he was instrumental in its success even if the details have enlarged beyond his control. Aren’t we as responsible for the propping up of role models as those who report on them? Such a commentary on sports heroes could have been a potent one if Carter wasn’t such a decent guy and the scene in which he is coerced into self-villification in retrospect seems less like a search for the truth than the final straw of a oneupsmanship by someone’s loins.

Leatherheads looks the part with its costumes, music and speakeasys but it falls well short of its attempts to be a 1920s version of Bull Durham where the sport is merely a backdrop for its triangular romance. While there’s little hope of most films equaling such a feat, an even better cue for Leatherheads to have followed would have been A League Of Their Own which managed to deliver consistent laughs while enveloping us in the beginnings of a truly bygone era. Clooney’s appreciation for this period (of history both real and cinematic) is evident in his collaborations with not only Soderbergh (The Good German) but the classical romantic stylings of the Coen Bros. (O Brother Where Art Thou?, Intolerable Cruelty) and it seems as if the MPAA unfairly upped a clear “PG” movie into a “PG-13”. But adding numbers can’t even the score on the edge that Leatherheads lacks in the sharpness of its humor delivery and the hits on the field.

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originally posted: 04/04/08 15:00:00
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User Comments

9/14/09 RLan This film fails on so many levels! AVOID IT!!! 1 stars
9/13/09 Jeff Wilder A likeable old-fashioned screwball comedy. 4 stars
9/04/09 CTT Cute, often funny, and completely unmemorable 4 stars
1/08/09 Shaun Wallner Great Cast!! 4 stars
6/03/08 bradkay Cute movie. Good chemisry between Cloony & Zellweger. Takes long time to develop. 3 stars
6/02/08 George Barksdale Another funny movie by George Clooney 4 stars
6/01/08 Jacqueline Carpenter What can I say George Clooney 5 stars
4/18/08 magda khiralla a funney film i like it 4 stars
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  04-Apr-2008 (PG-13)
  DVD: 23-Sep-2008


  DVD: 23-Sep-2008

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