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Review

Clooney’s football comedy ‘Leatherheads’ a nostalgic treat

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April 10, 2008

In recent years, George Clooney has successfully executed that all-too-risky jump from matinee movie star to skilled filmmaker. After taking on heavier topics his first two times at bat, Clooney presents his third directorial effort, “Leatherheads,” as his first foray into the arena of flat-out crowd-pleasing entertainment.

  Don’t get me wrong, the flick’s not entirely mainstream, as its intentions are geared slightly more towards being artistic than they are towards being just another goofball comedy. But as long as you enter the theater in the right frame of mind, you’ll have no problem scoring yourself some of the charm that “Leatherheads” gives away by the gross.

  The year is 1925, and pro football is in a sorry state of affairs. Attendance is flagging, budgets are being cut and teams are falling apart in a flash. Dodge Connelly (Clooney) is the captain of such a team, the struggling Duluth Bulldogs. When the wave of cutbacks hits his beloved crew, Dodge scrambles to find a way to keep the team afloat.

  He soon finds his ticket to ride in the form of Carter “The Bullet” Rutherford (John Krasinski), a war hero and college football champ. Sure enough, after coercing young Carter into joining the Bulldogs, attendance picks up fast, with the team going from getting into fights on the field to actually winning a few games for a change. But it’s not long before Dodge becomes involved in a love triangle that pits him and Carter against one another for the affections of Lexie Littleton (Renee Zellweger), a spunky reporter with a secret agenda of her own.

  A few days before I saw “Leatherheads,” I read a webcomic that questioned the incentive for seeing the movie. Being a pre-Depression Era comedy about the early days of professional football, the flick has its work cut out for it in trying to pin down exactly who its demographic is. 

  Clooney has crafted the story into a shining example of pure screwball idealism, with plenty of solid laughs to be had all around. The problem is that at almost two hours, “Leatherheads” often finds itself running on moxie alone, without much real content to provide. The material is stretched way too thin at times. Still, Clooney does manage to take most of the movie and turn it into a pretty entertaining ride. The man himself is at his roguish best as Dodge, a fast-talking shyster willing to keep the spirit of pro football alive and kicking at all costs.

  Much like the “athletes” it depicts, “Leatherheads” doesn’t always have its act together. It’s a little rough around the edges and could’ve used a good rewrite or two to shave off some of the thematic fat. But if you’re in the mood for a flick that, at the end of the day, is all about having a few good laughs and a heaping helping of 1920s nostalgia to go with it, “Leatherheads” is sure to give you just what you’re looking for.

A.J. Hakari is a student at UW-River Falls.