Home | Review Archive | The Bucket 'Blog | Screening Log | Film Festival Coverage | Contact Danny



Starring: George Clooney, John Krasinski, Renee Zellweger, Wayne Duvall

Directed by: George Clooney

Produced by: Grant Heslov, Casey Silver

Written by: Duncan Brantley, Rick Reilly

Distributor: Universal Pictures


     It may surprise some moviegoers that Leatherheads, a fictional telling of the early days of professional football, was directed by George Clooney. Anyone who is familiar Clooney’s previous directorial efforts, Goodnight and Good Luck and Confessions of a Dangerous Mind, knows that the actor-turned-filmmaker has used his projects to explore his fascination with the Media. The former film focused on the honest journalism carried out by Edward R. Murrow during the Red Scare of the 1950s and the latter on the life of psychedelic “Gong Show”-host Chuck Barris. Even those who have enough confidence in Clooney as a filmmaker to allow him to take them in any direction he wishes would have to concede that Leatherheads, on the exterior, represents an auspicious turn for his junior feature. 

     But Leatherheads really isn’t about football. In fact, most of its themes revolve around its own wide-eyed newswoman, Lexie Littleton (Renee Zellweger). Indeed, Littleton isn’t a historical figure like Murrow or Barris, but her influence on the Media is just as important to a story. In Leatherheads, she finds herself motivated by an open assistant-editor’s position at a major publication. In order to clinch said position, she’ll have to dig up some dirt on America’s favorite college football player, Cater Rutherford (John Krasinski). Playing at Princeton, Carter has become widely beloved, not only for his sportsmanship, but for his heroism in World War I. He reportedly caused the surrender of a whole fleet of Enemy Forces single-handedly.

     But Carter may not be the man that he seems. Lexie and her boss are informed by one of Carter’s fellow soldiers that his heroism is a hoax. This news comes at the optimal time, too, because Carter has just struck a deal with sports-promoter C.C. Frazier (Jonathan Pryce) and star-player of the Duluth Bulldogs Dodge Connelly (Clooney) to go Pro with Duluth. Only professional football wasn’t the glamorized pastime that it is today in 1925, the year the film takes place; oftentimes, as is observed in the movie’s first scene, only cows showed up to watch a given game. Guaranteeing him a salary of $10,000 per game, Frazier hopes that Carter will put the soon-to-be NFL on the map. A conniving Lexie may be the only thing in the way of doing just this.

     Despite its affable, light tone, Leatherheads covers a lot of territory. Not only is the movie about Lexie’s journalistic ethics in her attempts to dismantle a supposed war hero, it also becomes something of a romance when she finds herself in a love triangle with Carter (halting the desire to break the story) and Dodge. As if that all wasn’t enough to tide the viewer over, Clooney secures ample screen-time for bits of screwball-comedy and retrospectives on the quirkier elements of society at the time (the widespread effect of Prohibition being the most interesting among them). Still, Leatherheads maintains a balanced tempo and explores every story-element it introduces to a satisfying extent. If there’s one thing the picture can be faulted for, it’s that it runs too long at 114-minutes, a duration that the movie’s fluffy presence seems unprepared to support.

     Another problem with Leatherheads is Clooney’s performance. The actor doesn’t do a poor job of bringing Dodge to life; he just seems too recognizable and distinct a celebrity for the role. Clooney, a smooth superstar of Godzilla proportions, simply doesn’t seem believable as a down-on-his-luck professional football player whose last resort to keep his team alive is to take a chance on a college-boy he can’t stand the sight of. His solid direction makes up for this, but it’s a bit disappointing that he wasn’t able to tone down his ego and keep off the screen. Krasinski, on the other hand, is perfectly believable as Carter, capturing every nuance of the character within his dopey exterior. It should be noted, too, that Zellweger does a fantastic job as Lexie, playing off of Clooney and Krasinski in a way that breathes life into the picture’s otherwise-trivial love-triangle.

     Minor flaws aside, Leatherheads is a film well worth seeing, especially in the cinematically-dead month of March. I’m not yet ready to dub Clooney a great director, but he certainly has had a successful first three pictures, always tackling projects that are entirely unique. Even if one doesn’t like the man’s pictures, one must still admire his ability to push cliché ‘ol Hollywood slightly out of its comfort-zone. Leatherheads is a perfect example of one-of-a-kind (while still not at all experimental) filmmaking.

-Danny Baldwin, Bucket Reviews

Review Published on: 4.3.2008

Screened on: 4.5.2008 at the AMC Burbank 16 in Burbank, CA.


Leatherheads is rated PG-13 and runs 113 minutes.

Back to Home