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"Leatherheads" movie poster

Two Stars
Genre: Comedy
Rated: PG-13
Directed by:
George Clooney
Starring: George Clooney, Renée Zellweger, John Krasinski, Jonathan Pryce
Released by: Universal Pictures

In Short: “Leatherheads” gives the screwball comedy genre the old college try, but sadly drops the ball.
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Not Quite Screwy Enough
"Leatherheads" Drops the Ball
by Jenny Peters

Leatherheads” seemingly has all the elements in place for it to be a classic screwball comedy, in the tradition of Preston Sturges (think “The Lady Eve” or “The Palm Beach Story”), Howard Hawks (“His Girl Friday,” “Bringing Up Baby”), or Frank Capra (“You Can’t Take It with You”). But sadly, despite a funny idea (the rough-and-tumble beginnings of pro football in America, circa 1925) and a talented cast, George Clooney, the film’s director and leading man, has dropped the ball with this one.

George Clooney and John Krasinski in "Leatherheads"
George Clooney, John Krasinski and Renee Zellweger in "Leatherheads"

It’s not that “Leatherheads” is a terrible movie. In fact, it has some very charming and amusing moments, as Dodge Connelly (Clooney) tries to keep a ragtag pro football team from folding by recruiting a war hero/Princeton college football star (John Krasinski of “The Office” fame); but there are just not enough of those moments overall. Adding in a pretty, quick-talking, sharp-witted female reporter (Renee Zellweger) does not help, as the extremely predictable story unspools.

The problem with “Leatherheads” is not its predictability, however, for all screwball romantic comedies are ultimately that (the leading man always ends up with the leading woman, after all). Instead, it is the journey to that known ending that bogs down in the film, much as the movie itself ends up on a field full of mud that sucks the football players down into the muck. Basically, the story is slow to develop, the dialogue isn’t snappy enough or amusing enough, and the romantic triangle among the three leads isn’t exactly scintillating.

Clooney is charming, as always; Zellweger looks good and does her best with a role played much better long ago by Rosalind Russell in “His Girl Friday”; and Krasinski exudes a boyish charm. But the overall result is simply boring, and not particularly funny, which is a cardinal sin when it comes to the genre that Clooney is trying to emulate.

PES032708 (Updated 04/03/08 ES)

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