Zellweger, Clooney Make an Affable Team in Leatherheads
- Christa Banister Crosswalk.com Contributing Writer
- 2008 4 Apr
DVD Release Date: September 23, 2008
Theatrical Release Date: April 4, 2008
Rating: PG-13 (brief strong language)
Genre: Screwball comedy
Run Time: 114 min.
Director: George Clooney
Actors: John Krasinski, George Clooney, Renée Zellweger, Malcolm Goodwin, Matt Bushell, Tommy Hinkley
Taking its cues from fast-talking screwball comedies like It Happened One Night and His Girl Friday, Leatherheads is a sports-themed battle of the sexes that largely succeeds because of the insatiable chemistry of its leads—George Clooney and Renée Zellweger.
Set in the early days of professional football, the late 1920s, Clooney (who also directed the film) plays a charming, do-anything-it-takes-to-win quarterback named Dodge Connelly whose best days on the field were probably 10 years ago. Since he lacks any sort of non-football trade skills, however, Dodge is forced to get creative when his football team eventually loses its key sponsor and is forced to disband.
Short of cash and teammates now that they’ve been forced to work blue-collar jobs to make ends meet, Dodge needs a big idea and fast. But thanks to a boyishly handsome golden boy named Carter Rutherford (a likable John Krasinski of TV’s The Office), Dodge may have what he needs to elevate his ragtag football team to the bright lights of stardom. But there’s just one problem, of course: the star football player and famed World War I hero praised for forcing a platoon of German soldiers into surrendering to him, needs a compelling reason to leave Princeton so he can play for Dodge’s Duluth squad.
Of course, that’s not enough conflict to pull off the whole screwball comedy concept, so plucky reporter Lexie Littleton (played pitch-perfect by Zellweger) arrives on the scene when Rutherford’s courageous military acts have been called into question. As the star reporter for the Chicago Tribune, she’ll do whatever it takes to get the story, and both Carter and Dodge can’t help but be intrigued by the blonde who is more than just pin-curl pretty. She’s spitfire smart and can easily keep up with the men—even if it happens to be their world at the moment. Like in the underrated 2003 comedy Down with Love and her Oscar-winning supporting role in Cold Mountain the same year, Zellweger pulls off the vintage role well, showing off the versatility that’s made her a regular staple in movies since her girl-next-door turn in Jerry Maguire.
And while it definitely takes a witty writer to pull off a throwback screenplay like this, it’s ultimately Clooney and Zellweger’s easy banter and will-they-get-together-or-not chemistry that gives Leatherheads its fighting spirit. Maybe it’s their rumored off-screen romance that gave it a spark, but whatever it was, these two need to team up more often. Now mind you, Leatherheads certainly won’t be mistaken for a serious film like Clooney’s directorial turn in Good Night, and Good Luck, yet it still shows that he has an adept eye for detail. Like the best films, the viewer actually feels like they’ve been transported into another world for an hour and a half, and everything from the characters’ word choices to the elaborate costuming to the whimsical Randy Newman score is spot-on, making Leatherheads an engaging experience for all the senses.
The only drawback that makes Leatherheads more of a field goal than a touchdown, however, is that it’s about a third too long. While it could’ve ended nicely once the key conflicts were all worked out, it unnecessarily drags on. But if one’s willing to overlook the 20-minute excess, Leatherheads is clever date-night fare that should appeal to both guys and girls without insulting anyone’s intelligence. In other words, a pretty good night at the movies.
- Drugs/Alcohol: Even though it’s the prohibition era, there are multiple scenes of social drinking in bars and on the job.
- Language/Profanity: While the standard-issue profanity is pretty mild, (aside from a mildly disturbing scene where a child rattles off a string of swear words), there are multiple instances where the Lord’s name is taken in vain.
- Sex/Nudity: A couple of mild innuendos and some kissing.
- Violence: Mostly of the slapstick variety, aside from a couple of fistfights and football-related violence.