Archive | 11:10 pm

Touchdown, But No Extra Point

1 Apr

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: you’ve gotta love George Clooney. Nearly everything the guy does is classic and cool, not to mention totally retro. The way he dresses, the way he interacts with the press and the public, and especially the choices he makes in terms of movies — it’s all a throwback to a way things used to be. His first two directorial efforts, Confessions of a Dangerous Mind and Good Night, and Good Luck were informed by a classic sensibility and took place in an earlier time. Now, with Leatherheads, Clooney’s third film behind the lens, it’s clear he’s not quite done with the past. And I’m not complaining.

From the first frames, when Clooney uses the classic Universal Studios logo rather than the current one, you know you’re in a throwback kind of movie. The first 15 minutes have the breezy charm of a 1920s screwball comedy. There’s a great opening score, and the quick pace effectively establishes the tone. We’re introduced to our major players: Carter Rutherford (John Krasinski, from The Office), the war-hero-turned-college-football-star; Dodge Connolly (Clooney), the aging football hero who doesn’t play by the rules; and Lexie Littleton (Renée Zellweger), a newspaper reporter assigned to get the real story on Carter.

In 1925, pro football was still in its infancy. Players were men who refused to grow up, and played for per-game salaries that were paid when the game was over. But its no-rules disorganization put the league in jeopardy. Dodge sees in Carter the chance to build attention and respect for his sport, so he entices him to go pro. Lexie tags along to get her story, and (surprise surprise) ends up getting caught in the middle of the two guys, both of whom fall for her. Will Lexie get her story? Will Dodge get the girl? What do you think?

I wish I could say Leatherheads was entirely as good as its opening minutes promise, but it’s not. The film bounces back and forth in tone between screwball comedy and dramedy, a shift that hinders the overall pace. I wish this were more similar to the Coen brothers’ Intolerable Cruelty, one of my all-time favorite Clooney films. That said, Leatherheads is an easygoing, charming flick with lots to like. Clooney demonstrates his movie star appeal, and his talent as a director is so good that even Zellweger is an attractive and not annoying presence. Krasinski doesn’t have the big-screen, all-American look that his character requires (Clooney should have cast someone a little more WASPy and a little less goofy), but he’s enjoyable too.

There’s no real competition between Dodge and Carter, so there’s not much of a love triangle. Dodge doesn’t even seem to be all that invested in outing Carter as a fraud because he doesn’t see him as a threat, and more importantly, he’s more interested in just playing football (and getting the girl). And since there’s no real competition there, you know there’s gotta be a big game at the end where the two men will end up playing against each other. But, there’s some fun detail in the way the games are staged, and some decent laughs to be had. And the leads are so likable here that they help to overcome many of the film’s weaknesses.

So, while Leatherheads is far from an instant classic sports movie, it’s a pleasant two hours and I’d recommend it. I’m giving the film a B.

Bait and Switch

1 Apr

If you saw a front-page newspaper headline blaring “Honey, I Duct-Taped the Kids!” and were given the page number where you’d find the story about how a mother bound her kids to chairs and then posted the pics on MySpace, what would you expect to find there?

Pictures, right?

Not if you read the Boston Herald today. There are no pictures to be found. Bummer. I mean, not that I endorse this behavior at all. I find it reprehensible, as I’m sure everyone does.

But that part of me that’s fond of the salacious and unsavory behavior of people with no brains wanted to see the pics. Continue reading