Before I get into the review, I should mention something: I may not be the most reliable critic for this movie. The fact is that John Krasinski is my soulmate. I mean, we haven’t talked about it or anything, but I’m pretty sure if we met, he would agree. So, obviously, the movie could be two hours of him tying his shoes and I’d love it. Which is not to say that you should discount my enjoyment of Leatherheads, but you know, I’m kinda in love with one of the stars.
So now that that’s out of the way, on to the movie. It’s actually good -- mainly because both George Clooney and John Krasinski are ridiculously charming. Clooney plays Dodge Connelly, an over-the-hill pro football player in the nascent years of the sport. Krasinski plays Carter Rutherford, a college football player / war hero that Connelly convinces to join his team in an effort to legitimize the professional league.
All of this would be peachy, except that there needs to be a love interest to make the movie fun, and for some reason, they decided to cast Renee Zellweger as newspaper reporter Lexie Littleton. I didn’t hate her as much as I anticipated; Zellweger can definitely keep up with the zippy dialogue, and she has the annoyed eye-roll down pat. But there’s something wrong with her face and her voice was really grating. Which is especially noticeable in Leatherheads, since her male co-stars both have the most wonderful voices that ever existed.
Anyway, while Dodge and Carter drum up enthusiasm for the professional football league, Lexie snoops around trying to uncover the truth behind Carter’s war heroism. Obviously a love triangle emerges and, astonishingly, Lexie doesn’t spend much time agonizing over who she wants. I need to point out again just how charming Krasinski is in this role -- it’s a little unbelievable that Lexie has no interest in him at all, but maybe Zellweger couldn’t see clearly out of her squinty, squinty eyes.
The main thing to say about the movie stylistically is that Clooney, who also directed, tried to pattern Leatherheads off of old-school screwball comedies – think It Happened One Night or Bringing Up Baby. This means lost of fast talking and word play. For example when a man tells Renee Zellweger he didn’t come here to be insulted, she archly asks him, “Well, where do you normally go?” And though sadly, Krasinski has less to do in this department than Clooney or Zellweger, all three of the leads know how to keep pace and deliver a zinger.
Too bad Leatherheads is two hours long and it drags a bit as the larger, external events start to take their toll on the characters. But the dialogue is really fun and the movie looks lovely, with lots of warm golden hues in the costumes and sets. So, yeah, it’s a good movie. It could have been great with a little more time in the editing booth and a little less…you know, Renee Zellweger. However, as the characters in Leatherheads find out, you can’t always have it all.
Final note: The casting of Renee Zellweger is just the most recent in a string of female lead problems in the movies lately. (See: Hillary Swank in PS: I Love You, Kate Bosworth in 21, or Katherine Heigl in 27 Dresses.) Are there no good, young actresses in