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Leatherheads (2008)   rating

Review: written Aug 2009

Good looking, sporadically funny, but not vintage

Leatherheads (2008)

George Clooney tackles the comparisons that have been made between him and Cary Grant head on in this period comedy, by not just directing but starring in exactly the sort of screwball comedy that made Grant a star. It's debatable whether he should have tried, as the end result does not quite fire on all cylinders - but it's still worth a watch.

It's clear from the first moment of the movie when we see a sepia toned vintage Universal logo instead of the usual spinning planet, that Clooney is going all out to homage the movies that they used to make in `the good old days'. What becomes apparent as the movie goes on, is that he is also making a movie about the origins of professional football, as it goes from poor boy of college football to rich money-driven sport. As director, he succeeds admirably in the vintage setting, and the picture looks lush and beautifully shot, even as the players splash in the mud. As actor, he scrapes through on his undeniable charm, but there is a nagging feeling that he is trying just a little hard to create those Cary-Grant-esque moments at times with his gurning and double takes. He is hardly helped by Renee Zellwegger, whose idea of appearing in a period movie is to purse her lips as much as possible, and gradually relax them to indicate her character mellowing... Sorry to say, she does not on this outing match any of the great stars like Katherine Hepburn, Carole Lombard or Jean Harlow who defined the genre, but her fans will not be too disappointed.

Leatherheads (2008)

The American professional football aspect of the film fares much better - we are not overloaded with sport on screen, but see enough to get an idea of the changes happening in the sport, and what we do see helps us feel in the thick of it. The atmosphere of the time is often palpable, and in pace and story content this aspect of the movie works well, helped by some terrific supporting actor performances... Peter Gerety as the new commissioner of the sport is a treat, and Jonathan Pryce as the scheming agent is good value too.

In fact, the look of the movie, and the tone of the story, along with some wonderful one liners, make the movie worth watching. On Blu-ray in particular the picture is immaculate. One just wonders if Clooney did himself any favours by comparing himself to the greats so directly, as both actor and director.

Leatherheads (2008)

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