Length: 114 minutes
Director: George Clooney (Good Night, and Good Luck.; Confessions of a Dangerous Mind)
Writers: Duncan Brantley and Ricky Reilly (“Arli$$”)
Starring: George Clooney, Renee Zellweger, John Krasinski, Jonathan Pryce, Stephen Root, Randy Newman, Max Casella, Marian Seldes, Grant Heslov, David Pasquesi
What a disappointment. George Clooney, love him or hate him (most people, unfairly, hate him based on his politics), has emerged as one hell of a director. His Charlie Kaufman penned Chuck Barris “bio” pic “Confessions of a Dangerous Mind” is a personal favorite of mine and “Good Night, and Good Luck.” was a masterpiece. I have been looking forward to his third feature, “Leatherheads”, since I first heard it was greenlighted. Hopefully this is just a snag on what will continue to be a wonderful directing career. Perhaps part of the blame is that here he has given himself the starring role, whereas in his last two pictures he had supporting roles. He is an extremely charismatic (and talented) actor, but it looks like juggling being on screen for the majority of the film and being behind the camera (figuratively speaking) at the same time might have been too much for him to handle. You can see what Clooney is going for. He makes it pretty obvious. “Leatherheads” is a sports movie- it’s about the early incarnations of pro football- but, it is more so a tribute to the early Hollywood screwball comedies. You have to wonder how many times he watched “It Happened One Night” and “Bringing Up Baby” in pre-production. The sports sequences are some of the most dull I’ve ever seen onscreen, which says something about a movie that is supposed to be about sports. Clooney is more interested in the romantic triangle angle. He plays an aging football player Dodge Connolly. His current squad has lost it’s sponsorship and has been forced to disband. After some maneuvering, he finds a way to bring the squad back. He recruits a college football star/war hero, the young and brash Carter Rutherford (“The Office”’s John Krasinski). Sassy, fast talking reporter Lexie Littleton (Renee Zellweger) is assigned to investigate the move. Both Dodge and Carter fall for her and have to deal with issues on and off the field. Dodge is old, Carter is young. They both have something to prove and they both want to win Lexie’s heart. It should have worked and it could have worked, but it somehow just doesn’t. It falls flat. Curious, considering how alive Clooney’s first two features were. “Confessions” was so full of energy and imagination that it’s a film I could watch every day. “Good Night, and Good Luck.” was so powerful that it was the first movie that almost brought tears to my eyes just on it’s belief in it’s principles alone. I’m not faulting the guy for taking it easy for a picture by no means. I just think he undershot his talent. If there’s somebody that could have pulled off a screwball romantic-comedy involving 1920’s football, it should have been George Clooney. While Clooney seems distracted and Krasinski is surprisingly bland (his recent movie choices are starting to show that maybe he’s best fit for the small screen), Zellweger does turn in a spot on performance. She seems to be having a great time. The audience will envy her.