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Leatherheads (Universal Pictures, PG-13)

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The movie is funny and entertaining, with fast-paced dialogue and plenty of humor everyone will enjoy. It never takes itself too seriously or gets too sappy, which is due to Clooney’s competent directing.

George Clooney is in a unique position in Hollywood. Everyone loves him. He has an Oscar on his mantle and several nominations. He can move back and forth from comedy to drama, issue pictures to “paycheck” pictures. He writes, directs, produces and acts; and he’s pretty good at all of them. That must be the reason he’s always smiling.
Leatherheads, directed by and starring Clooney, takes place in 1925 when professional football is trying to legitimize itself as a sport, something that was not easy to do. Dodge Connelly (Clooney) is the glue holding the Duluth Bulldogs together. They are one of the few remaining professional football teams. Dodge is, ostensibly, star player, coach and promoter in a sport which is rapidly declining in teams and fans.

When the team finally folds, Dodge comes up with a bold and genius way to get the team and sport back together. He recruits Carter Rutherford (John Krasinski), Yale superstar and hero of the Great War, to play for the Duluth Bulldogs which is guaranteed to bring in fans and, in turn, revenue. His plan works, a little too well, and the Bulldogs are saved from ruin.

A couple of twists and turns are thrown Dodge’s way as he tries to save the sport he loves so much. The first is the Lexie Littleton (Renee Zellweger), journalist for the Chicago Tribune who is sent on the road with the Bulldogs to get dirt on Rutherford and ends up attracting the attention of Rutherford and Dodge. The second twist is that, while Rutherford is treated like a god by the whole country, there is more to the story than the loyal public is told.

Clooney is wonderful as Dodge. The man is as charismatic as any actor to ever appear on screen, and he draws the audience in with his charm and confidence. It’s easy to forget after films like Michael Clayton and Syriana, and even the Ocean’s films where he is the straight man, that he is a gifted comic actor whose facial reactions are brilliant. Krasinski deserves a lot of credit as well for his performance. His “aw, shucks” good looks and demeanor make him perfect for the part, and his timing is right on the mark. We love him because he’s a great guy, but we’re also a little annoyed because he is such a great guy.

Why Clooney, or any other director, decided to cast Zellweger is beyond me. She takes the role way too seriously and throws away many of Lexie’s funniest lines. She is so focused on making her performance perfect that she doesn’t have any fun with it and is left miles behind the two leading men.

The movie itself is funny and entertaining, with fast-paced dialogue and plenty of humor everyone will enjoy. It never takes itself too seriously or gets too sappy, which is due to Clooney’s competent directing. Leatherheads is a great break from the poor fare that is out in theaters right now and should be given the attention it deserves. | Matthew F. Newlin

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