Posts Tagged ‘Renée Zellweger’

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LEATHERHEADS (2008)

June 15, 2008

Leatherheads Review

Matt:
Tracy:

Length: 114 min

Taglines:
In the beginning, the rules were simple. There weren’t any.
If love is a game, who’ll make the first pass?

Précis: Mediocre modern ‘screwball comedy’ about 1920’s American football.

Review by Matt:

George Clooney’s directorial catalogue is taking us backwards in time through the 20th century. His debut, Confessions of a Dangerous Mind, took us into a colourful 1960s and 70s. Good Night and Good Luck put us in the stifling black and white of McCarthy’s 1950s. His latest film, Leatherheads, mimics 1940s Hollywood comedies, but is set in 1920s America. These were the days when the American football league was rules-free and carefree. Clooney plays smooth, fast-talking football-wizard, ‘Dodge’ Connelly. Encouraged into entrepreneurship when his ailing team disbands, Dodge manages to kick start the trend of professional, overpaid stars by recruiting football champ and war hero, Carter Rutherford (John Krasinski). Meanwhile, feisty reporter Lexie Littleton (Renée Zellweger) is on Carter’s trail. She’s got the inside word that Carter’s war heroics are greatly exaggerated and she’s determined to uncover the truth and write the story of the year.

Clooney has lovingly made his film in the old fashioned ‘screwball’ style of comedy. Swinging Randy Newman numbers accompany scenes of slapstick football antics and bar room brawls in underground prohibition-defying nightclubs. It’s the kind of film where Dodge and Carter can punch each other’s lights out, bickering over Lexie’s affections, and then hop up, rubbing their jaws, and have a drink together. The film looks great, it has a bouncy comic feel, and it’s pleasant, oh so pleasant. But, while it is devoid of things that will actively rankle you, unfortunately Leatherheads is missing something as well. It’s just not that enjoyable. Like an expensive, exotic meal that is disappointingly tasteless.

Why is it so? You can tell that Clooney really loves this genre and Leatherheads is finely crafted. But perhaps it suffers from too much love. It becomes indulgent and a bit dull. There are a few too many of scenes of 1920s atmosphere, and not enough comic material. Partly blame the script as well, which doesn’t deliver the interest and impact that the triumphant directing deserves. The best scenes, as with the old screwball comedies, are when Carey-Grant-like Clooney and Katherine-Hepburn-like Zellweger engage in their argumentative banter (which really of course just masks their unexpressed love for each other). But they’re only a rare smattering in a jumpy script that lingers too long in nowheresville and then rushes through when it reaches somewhere more interesting.

There are still plenty of things to endear you to the film, if you’re impressed by individual parts. The acting is roundly excellent. George Clooney is in full ‘loveable rogue’ mode and his frenetic eyebrow-raising and smirking helps energise the pace when it flags. He and Renee Zelwegger have nice comic timing in their verbal jousts. American football fans will probably find some curiosity the tale of the origins of their sport, which in 1920 certainly didn’t look anything like the serious super-business it has become today. Fans of old screwball comedies will also probably appreciate Leatherheads more than I did, recognising a familiar 1940s freshness usually missing from films today; even the romance plot stays ‘moral’, burying references to sex in ingenious clues, as if the old Hollywood censorship code was still around (such as the romantic leads finding themselves sleeping in the top and bottom of a bunk bed).

So Leatherheads is generally charming and pleasantly nostalgic about things we’ve lost from football and films. It’s not a film to deride. However – and maybe I’m from a generation that is more distracted and demanding – I really would have preferred a film with a bit more zing.

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