Usually reliable Clooney fumbles ball in football comedy “Leatherheads”

Set in 1925, "Leatherheads" is a comedy that is rarely funny, a pseudo-historical document that shed

George Clooney is an exceptional artist of impeccable integrity. But while one may find it difficult to question his altruism, we may all find reason to question his ability to direct a comedy.

“Leatherheads,” in which he stars as an aging professional football player, is a mess. Clooney’s direction is clumsy, lackadaisical and, if we are to give this amiable fellow an out, it may be the script, which is, on just about every level, a dud.


DIRECTED BY: George Clooney

SCREENPLAY BY: Duncan Brantley and Rick Reilly

STARRING: George Clooney, John Krasinski, Renée Zellweger and Jonathan Pryce


RUNNING TIME: 114 minutes

Set in 1925, it’s a comedy that is rarely funny, a pseudo-historical document that sheds little light on reality, and, at best, a lame attempt to copy the whiz-bang pace and sharp wit epitomized by the 1930s and ’40s screwball comedies of Howard Hawks and Billy Wilder.

I regret to inform you that “Leatherheads” is so inept that it qualifies as an embarrassment. It is not, I should state up front, a comedy that will enthrall kids, who will remain uninterested in the historical aspects and feel shortchanged on the slapstick, which is flat and lifeless.

It’s about nothing

You cannot conclude that Clooney lacks the talent to be a competent comic lead. Witness his excellent and wacky performance in “O Brother, Where Art Thou?” Note, however, that the latter was directed by Joel Coen and written by his brother, Ethan. They are the same Coens who gave us “Raising Arizona,” “Fargo” and “No Country for Old Men.”

In other words, we are talking smart.

“Leatherheads” is not exactly dumb, but it is far from smart. If you really care to know, it is not really about anything. While it pretends to chronicle the advent of professional football in an era when college football was the rage, we learn nothing; for sure, depictions of the game are anemic. The narrative strands featuring Renée Zellweger as Lexie, the investigative journalist, and John Krasinski as a star from Princeton and a World War I hero are cast to the wind.

Krasinski’s performance is as flat as deflated pigskin, while Zellweger’s attempt at sassy comedy is flatter yet. You know Clooney and Zellweger are trying to imitate pros such as Cary Grant and Rosalind Russell in movies like “His Girl Friday,” but instead of crackling, overlapping dialogue, we get a dime-store imitation. Clooney’s only excuse here is that with such a lame script, he didn’t stand a chance. For now, at least, he is more adept at helming dramas like “Good Night, and Good Luck,” the excellent depiction of the travails of network TV during the McCarthy era.

There’s more to say about “Leatherheads,” but devoting more attention to its numerous defects is tantamount to ganging up, committing a slew of personal fouls. Thankfully, Clooney’s failure to advance his fine reputation does not come on fourth down.

Categories: Entertainment, Life and Arts

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