Film Review by Kam Williams
Headline: Clooney Courts Zellweger in Screwball Comedy Set in the Roaring Twenties
It is the height of the Roaring Twenties, an era generally associated with overindulgence and irrational exuberance in spite of Prohibition and the specter of the Great Depression looming over the horizon. The decade also signaled the introduction of professional football in the American heartland, and this is where we meet Jimmy “Dodge” Connelly (George Clooney), the owner/captain/coach of the Duluth Bulldogs.
While most folks fail to see much of a future in a game being played on turnip fields by miners, farmers and shell-shocked veterans, Dodge can already envision the fledgling league’s potential as a popular spectator sport.
Plus, the aging star is still a kid at heart, who would rather continue playing indefinitely than make any concessions to Father Time.
But with his Bulldogs enjoying more of a reputation for brawling in speakeasies than for greatness on the gridiron, they find themselves without a sponsor and teetering on the brink of bankruptcy. So, in order to save his team from financial collapse, Connelly comes up with an inspired idea to bolster his flagging franchise’s box-office receipts.
The plan is to offer a record-setting contract to Carter Rutherford (John Krasinski), provided the Princeton University sensation is willing to abandon plans to attend Yale Law School and turn pro instead. For the 6’3” Golden Boy offers the added bonus of being a celebrated World War I hero who single-handedly captured a platoon of German soldiers during the Battle of the Argonne Forest in Northern France.
Carter signs up and, sure enough, the gamble works. Sportswriters covering the Bulldogs begin writing articles recounting the veteran’s exploits and enormous crowds start flocking to the team’s games. However, a fly in the ointment arrives in Lexie Littleton (Renee Zellweger), an up-and-coming investigative journalist looking to make a name for herself.
She suspects that the patriot’s war record might have been a bit embellished, so she sets about doing a little digging to elicit the truth. Meanwhile, she simultaneously finds herself being courted by both Carter and Dodge, and a love triangle ensues.
Written and directed by George Clooney (for Syriana), Leatherheads is an old-fashioned screwball comedy cut from the mold of a Preston Sturges farce. Half slapstick, half romantic romp, the picture is at its best when indulging in witty repartee between Clooney and Renee Zellweger. Reminiscent of Tracy and Hepburn, the two Academy Award-winners again prove their worth, generating an endearing chemistry while delivering their every line with perfect aplomb.
If only the rest of the script measured up to their inspired exchanges, the movie might have added up to something more memorable than a momentary diversion. Instead, what we have is a pleasant period piece harking back to days of yore, but one so superficial that it’s likely to be forgotten by the time you file up the aisle.
Good (2 stars)
Rated PG-13 for brief profanity.
Running time: 114 minutes
Studio: Universal Pictures
Sunday, April 6, 2008
Film Review by Kam Williams