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Overall Rating
3.52

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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Leatherheads
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by Jay Seaver

"Clooney's a natural fit for screwball."
4 stars

George Clooney has many fine qualities, but among the ones I most appreciate is an appreciation for past eras in film and American life that doesn't approach blind worship. "Leatherheads" could easily wallow in nostalgia, but that wouldn't really be funny, and it's always worth noting that the good old days had a lot of the same issues as today.

The film opens with a comparison of professional and college football in 1925. The college game, as exemplified by Princeton's Carter Rutherford (John Krasinski), is just as huge as you might remember from Harold Lloyd's The Freshman; the "professional" Duluth Bulldogs play in cowfields with shoddy uniforms and equipment, booking games with whichever teams haven't yet succumbed to bankruptcy. When the Bulldogs go under, its fortysomething star player and brain trust, Dodge Connelly (George Clooney)comes up with a radical plan to save it - recruit Rutherford and use his star power to draw a much larger crowd. There's side effects to this, though - Rutherford brings reporter Lexie Littleton (Renée Zellweger), who is secretly trying to expose the truth behind Rutherford's war hero status, and the increased money in play attracts the likes of C.C. Frazier (Jonathan Pryce), who acts as Rutherford's agent.

Clooney's film is something of a throwback, though not quite all the way to its period - that would have meant making it black and white and silent, which the studio likely would have balked at. Still, he gets as far back as the thirties, and the rapid banter between Clooney and Zellweger is well worth it. They've got a sharp chemistry from the very start, and the script never insults us by having them not recognize it. There's just Carter, who is legitimately charming, and neither of them is really the romancing type. Zellweger is prety good here; the sharp-tongued character suits her, and she's able to make Lexie more than just abrasive.

Clooney gets a chance to do a little bit of everything. His character is something of a tragic figure, in that he winds up destroying the thing he loves in order to save it, but he's not an angry or self-pitying character. Clooney's got gobs of matinee-idol charm, and has the knack for making Dodge both kind of cocky and self-deprecating at once. He snaps of his lines with perfect rapid-fire pacing, but gets some of his biggest laughs just from facial expressions.

John Krasinski is pretty good, too; he makes Rutherford smooth without making him seem deliberately smooth. There's a lot to like about the guy, although you can also see where Dodge might resent him, from the way everything seems to come so easily. There are a bunch of other fun supporting characters, though the team itself isn't a big part of that, the way one might expect it to be. Stephen Root is laid back as the rummy sportswriter who lets Dodge dictate his stories, and Johnathan Pryce is perfectly oily as the money man who represents every negative of the transformation of the game into a business. I also like Jeremy Ratchford (a regular scene-stealer on Cold Case), who shows up in the last act as an old war buddy of Dodge's.

Composer Randy Newman has a funny cameo in the same scene (he is, of course, the piano player), and he contributes a soundtrack that embraces its period but is seldom intrusive about it. The whole production feels like that; there's attention to detail and fondness for the details of the period and classic movies - it's a shame sleeper cars don't come into play in more modern movies - but the story recognizes that although the past is something that has great appeal, holding steadfastly to the way things are doesn't make a bad situation better.

The movie's not perfect: The last act both forces an unlikely "big game" scenario and a fairly ridiculous resolution to it, and as director George Clooney occasionally sets too slow a pace both for a modern movie or an authentic screwball comedy. Many more moments zing than drag, though, and the cast fits their parts so well as to make up for any issues with the story.

link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=17018&reviewer=371
originally posted: 04/14/08 14:07:17
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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
9/11/08 PAUL SHORTT GOOD-LOOKING, GOOD NATURED AND SOPHISTICATED 3 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
IF YOU'VE SEEN THIS FILM, RATE IT!
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USA
  04-Apr-2008 (PG-13)
  DVD: 23-Sep-2008

UK
  N/A

Australia
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  DVD: 23-Sep-2008



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