Leatherheads more turnover than touchdown
It’s been awhile since we’ve seen a sports film with some real wit (nothing Will Ferrell has been in qualifies). And, come to think of it, George Clooney hasn’t done a true comedy since “O Brother Where Art Thou?” nearly eight years ago.
So along comes the Clooney directed “Leatherheads,” in which he also stars, a film we should be cheering for given its of sports, epic, screwball, and romantic comedic intentions.
While the film has its moments, including a spot-on 20s era look and soft jazz soundtrack, its uneasy blend of subgenres is its poison pill. “Leatherheads” really doesn’t know what kind of film it is, and as a result it shanks the winning kick-not by a mile-but by enough to be a disappointment.
As the Duluth Bulldogs’ star player Dodge Connelly, Clooney sees his pro football franchise struggling mightily to survive. He entices college star Carter “The Bullet” Rutherford (John Krasinski) away from his Princeton University team hoping he’ll bring with him the legions of fans that can’t get enough of the all-American, handsome athlete. (Apparently, he also happens to be a WWI hero.)
That last attribute may be in question, and Renee Zellweger stars as “Girl Friday” sassy reporter “Lexie Littleton,” and she is determined to get to the truth that might just put a wrench in everyone’s engine.
Clooney’s rakish charm works fine, and Zellweger is predictably passable in a role we’ve seen her play better in films like “Cinderella Man,” “Down with Love,” and “Chicago.” One can’t help but wonder how much more freshness an Amy Adams or Zooey Deschanel would have brought to the table here.
The real revelation is newcomer Krasinski, whose strapping boyishness and big smile never betray any star struck awkwardness in his performance. With a better script, (first-timers Rick Reilly and Duncan Brantley are both former Sports Illustrated contributors), the actor known for TV’s “The Office” might have created more heat with Zellweger and prompted more madcap with Clooney.
Based on the enjoyably quirky romp of the first half hour or so, it seems “Leatherheads” would have fared better as an all-out farce. Alas, sports fans will bemoan the shortage of football action, while romantics will search in vain for some convincing chemistry between the leads.
A pleasant film that inspires polite appreciation but no burning passion.
Rated PG-13 for brief strong language