George Clooney fits perfectly in the 1920’s world that he created for “Leatherheads.” Clooney is a throw back from Hollywood’s golden age, a real movie star. Clooney oozes a charisma and charm that few actors these days could ever hope to muster and does it effortlessly. His sophomore directorial effort is a slow paced yet fun tribute to the good old days of football before big egos, big salaries and real helmets.In “Leatherheads,” Clooney plays Dodge Connelly, the general manager and aging star player of the Duluth Bulldogs circa 1925. This was back before the days of flags and instant replays, when football was an anything you can get away with kind of sport. The only rule was be careful who you call old and all disputes were settled with fists flying. Connelly’s Bulldogs, like the rest of the teams, are a rag tag group of miners, machinists and high school students and, also like the rest of the teams, they are barely making enough money to get by.
College football is all the rage while the pro teams can barely afford more then one game ball. The biggest star in the college game is Carter Rutherford, who is played excellently by “The Office” star John Krasinski. Rutherford is everything that Connelly isn’t: young, athletic and faced with a sea of opportunities.
Rutherford is more then just a huge star in college sports; however, he is also a war hero. The story goes that he forced an entire squad of German soldiers to surrender using only the sound of his voice.
Rutherford is a national hero with countless endorsement deals and a shady publicist named CC Frazier, played by Jonathan Pryce of “Pirates of the Caribbean” fame. While Rutherford’s future couldn’t be brighter, things couldn’t look much worse for the Bulldogs. Connelly learns that his team is bankrupt and that his players must go back to their real jobs.
Desperate to avoid such a fate Connelly hatches a scheme to get Rutherford to take a break from college ball and come join his Bulldogs. Rutherford agrees to go pro for the obscene salary of $5000, while Frazier puts up the cash to get the team out of bankruptcy, all for a percent of the team’s overall profits.
Things turn around immediately for the Bulldogs and the rest of the league as Rutherford draws massive crowds wherever he goes. Things couldn’t be better until Renee Zellweger enters the picture as Lexie Littleton, a reporter who is investigating Rutherford’s background.
Clooney, Krasinski, and Zellweger are all perfectly cast in their roles. Clooney brings a realism to his part and before long you forget you’re watching him play a character. Clooney is Dodge Connelly in the same way that he was Danny Ocean in the Ocean’s movies.
Krasinski does a good job of moving past his “Office” character Jim. He still plays a nice guy, but beneath the surface, you can tell there is more going on.
In the hands of a less skilled actress, Zellweger’s ambitious reporter character may have become a cliché, but here she is relatable and interesting.
The on screen chemistry between the leads is strong and everyone seems to be having a good time. Character-actor Stephen Root from “Office Space” also appears here as a scene stealing sports reporter, and adds an interesting contrast to Zellweger.
Clooney has a keen director’s eye considering this is only his second go around in the role. He was nominated for a Best Director for 2005’s “Good Night and Good Luck” and he proves that it was no fluke. He gets solid performances from all his actor’s and captures the energy of the roaring 20s.
The script by Duncan Brantley and Rick Reilly is clever and utilizes some elements from Hollywood’s past like the over-the-top chase scene and some get aways that even Danny Ocean would have trouble pulling off. The movie doesn’t take itself too seriously and enjoys taking its time building up to its hilarious and fitting conclusion.
Football fans should check this one out and see just where their sport evolved from. The film’s campy humor might not appeal to all but, in an age of formulaic comedies and sports movies, “Leatherheads” stands out. Its stars shine like those of old and anyone looking for a good, old fashioned walk down memory lane will not be disappointed.
Colin McGlinchey is a third-year student, majoring in english, with a minor in journalism. He can be reached CM646588@wcupa.edu.