There is something so easily hate-able about George Clooney. He swans around the place, all good looking and talented, capable of swapping from swaggish bank-robber (Oceans’ 13) to hollowed out shadowy corporate fixer (Michael Clayton), to this, where he dips back into the pools of screwball comedy that he visited previously in O Brother, Where Art Thou?, all within the space of a year. Topped off by the fact that Leatherheads marks the third time Clooney sits in the director’s chair, following 2002’s Confessions Of A Dangerous Mind and 2005’s Good Night, And Good Luck, which only goes to further prove his capability and versatility.
But despite all this, hating Clooney is next to impossible, especially when he’s clearly having so much fun making fun of himself as he does over the course of this movie. He’s playing ‘Dodge,’ the star player of a down on its luck Pro Football team who’ve just lost their lead sponsor. John Krasinski is ‘The Bullet,’ a recent war hero, and a super-star College Football hero, who is about to leave it all behind for law school. and Renee Zellweger is a very talented news reporter who has been sent to find out the real story behind The Bullet’s war hero story, while under the disguise of being a sports reporter. Clooney decides the best way to save his team, and Pro-Football itself, is to have The Bullet play for his team (back in 1925, Pro Football had no following, whereas College Football had a massive fanbase), all the while trying to stop Zellweger from revealing the story which ultimately ruin The Bullet’s career, and the future of a national sport.
As vaguely serious as this all sounds, Clooney wisely plays it more for laughs, in the tone of a 1940’s and 50’s battle-of-the-sexes comedy, with Clooney and Zellweger’s verbal sparring harking back to the memories of His Girl Friday and Some Like It Hot. And Clooney also does a good job of making the whole thing look like its actually set in the 20’s, but in that post-view nostalgic glow that everything from today gives everything from the past.
But aside from all this, Clooney still runs into several problems. Primarily, outside of America, nobody will really care about how the game came to be, which is why the international audience has received the promotional campaign that pushes the rom-com factor into the foreground. And while Clooney and Zellweger do well in their respective roles, there is never really a bright enough spark for us to believe that they make a conceivable pairing. And try as he might, Krasinski can’t keep up with these two heavyweights, especially when you consider just how willing he is to deceive these people who supposedly cares about just to keep his own head above water.
The two halves of the film never really gel properly, with anyone coming to see a football movie will be bored by the romantic triangle, and anyone coming to see a zippy romantic comedy having their good time hampered by all this muddy sports. But separately, there are some nuggets of pure entertainment to be found, and some fun minor characters, including one Jonathan Pryce in truly slimy villain mode.
At 120 minutes, everyone should find at least an hour’s worth of a good movie, and an hour’s worth were they can focus there attention on other things. Like how Clooney’s character has managed to play football for the last 25 years and still have all his teeth……
Five Out Of Ten.