A romantic comedy set against the backdrop of America's nascent pro-football league in 1925. Dodge Connolly, a charming, brash football hero, is determined to guide his team from bar brawls to packed stadiums. But after the players lose their sponsor and the entire league faces certain collapse, Dodge convinces a college football star to join his ragtag ranks. The captain hopes his latest move will help the struggling sport finally capture the country's attention. Welcome to the team Carter Rutherford, America's favorite son. A golden-boy war hero who single-handedly forced multiple German soldiers to surrender in WWI, Carter has dashing good looks and unparalleled speed on the field. This new champ is almost too good to be true, and Lexie Littleton aims to prove that's the case. A cub journalist playing in the big leagues, Lexie is a spitfire newswoman who suspects there are holes in Carter's war story. But while she digs, the two teammates start to become serious off-field rivals ...Written by
"Leatherheads" is a producers dream. On the one hand you have a story about the early stage of Pro-football to attract the guys and on the other you have one of those playful 1920's romances where the characters do and say witty things, which I'm going to assume women dig. So the movie contains all the right ingredients. All that needs to happen now is the parts need to show up on the screen, but oddly enough, the movie underwhelms in both regards.
It starts out fairly well, mocking the early pro-football setup before agents, advertisers, and John Madden took over. The most memorable shot in the entire movie is a cow watching from the sidelines as a rag-tag group of men run back and forth chasing a little ball (and you only get one ball per game). Dodge Connolly (George Clooney) is the leader of these men, the Duluth Bulldog football team. He's an old man, his glory days behind him but he stays in it because, like most of the other men on the team, these guys don't really have a lot of options and pro-football pays them almost in scrap.
The team is running out of money however, forcing Dodge to come up with a plan to put asses in the seats or else it's over. Enter Carter Rutherford (John Krasinski, The Office), a war hero and football star at Princeton whom Dodge pays a hefty sum of money to bring on to the Bulldogs. His star brings glamor and success to the franchise, but along with all that, he also brings Lexie Littleton (Renee Zellweger), a Chicago Tribune reporter trying to find out the real scoop on his so-called World War 1 heroism record.
As a director, Clooney brings a fun, airy tone to the movie, which almost makes up for the screenplay's near complete lack of jokes. And as an actor, he does well in the role of charming clown and Zellweger supports him nicely with a spirited and quick-witted performance. The screenplay on the other hand doesn't really work at all. There was a point half-way through where I just sat back and realized this movie really wasn't going anywhere. The story tries to shoehorn in a romance, a football movie, a movie about rules, a movie about the celebrity culture of the game, a lot of old-fashioned 1920's verbal sparring, and a war story that may or may not be true into the same screenplay. There are a lot of ideas here and really that's all they seem to be. Nothing really feels fleshed out.
After a promising start, the football scenes are few and far between, until we get to the ending where you'll see one of the most uninteresting and labored football games ever committed to film. And the romance never quite connects. I don't know if it's because the movie feels so PG or if it's because there is all this other stuff constantly in its way but the movie stifles itself and unfortunately after a certain point, it never recovers despite its star's best efforts.
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