Review: Clooney’s football flick fun, but flawed


Who would have thought that George Clooney could be one of the most promising directors of the 2000s? But with dramas like “Good Night, and Good Luck,” he’s certainly making a name for himself behind the camera. For his latest, Clooney decided to try something different. “Leatherheads” is a slapstick comedy about the early days of football and, despite a few drawbacks, it’s an entertaining film that stands out in a bleak theater season.

Set in the mid 1920s, “Leatherheads” is the story of pro-football player Dodge Connelly (Clooney), star of the Duluth Bulldogs. Pro-football then wasn’t the glamorous sport it is today. There were few rules and just as few fans. When Connelly’s told his team, like many others, is in danger of folding, he decides to seek out star college player and war hero Carter Rutherford (John Krasinski) in hopes of revitalizing the sport. However, reporter Lexie Littleton (Renee Zellweger) is writing a story about the popular Rutherford, trying to uncover the truth behind his supposed war heroics. As she and Connelly each pursue Rutherford, a strange love triangle forms, with lies and football all caught in the middle.

What drives “Leatherheads” is its cast. The chemistry between Clooney and Zellweger is great and feels natural. Not to be outdone, Krasinski puts in a great performance and holds his own against a seasoned cast. It’s nice to finally see him break out of the mold created by his character Jim on “The Office” and it proves his future is bright. Clooney, on the other hand, is playing his typical, smooth-talking boozer who gets the girl. Despite this, he’s as entertaining as always and his performance will make women swoon and guys jealous.

For being a comedy, “Leatherheads” isn’t filled with many laughs. The humor is by no means terrible, but it isn’t gut busting either. It’s packed with so many elements other than comedy that it seems Clooney wasn’t sure what film he wanted to make. In fact, I’d be hard pressed to classify this film in any genre. It’s a comedy, drama, period piece and sports film all rolled into one. It’s sort of like a jack-of-all-trades, never really succeeding in any particular area, but doing an alright job at all of them. Although it gives the film an interesting feel, it’s ultimately unfocused and takes away any impact it could have had.

Because of this lack of focus, the story is sparse, which is surprising compared to Clooney’s previous efforts. It feels like a subplot to a much better film. However, the one aspect where “Leatherheads” really shines is in the dialogue. It fits the atmosphere well and never feels contrived. Not only was it enjoyable to listen to, but it helped strengthen the bond between Clooney and Zellweger.

While the dialogue may be good, the pacing definitely needs work. The film is 30 minutes too long, and the structure of the narrative needs a second look. If Clooney would have spent more time on editing, many of these problems would be gone, making the whole film that much better.

For those interested in the era, “Leatherheads” is a unique film that offers up enough entertainment to make it an enjoyable experience. It may not be historically accurate, but it portrays that time in American history well enough to cover up many of these otherwise glaring flaws. And although not as good as previous Clooney efforts, it’s still fun. For those who are huge Clooney fans, it’s worth seeing in theaters. It’s a nice break, especially from the garbage that’s been littering theaters as of late. However, for sports fans, I would wait for the DVD.