Movie Diary: Leatherheads
It's sad, because "Leatherheads" has a lot of things going for it, at least where I'm concerned. It's a period piece that takes place in the roaring 20s, and I'm generally a sucker for any period piece taking place more than 50 years ago. Also, it's about football, and I love football. Furthermore, it stars George Clooney and John Krasinski (aka "The Office"'s Jim Halpert), and I think both of them are very talented. On the supporting actor front, the movie also features Jonathan Pryce, who was great in "Brazil," and uh, Renee Zellweger, about whom, suffice it to say that I'm not a fan. Oh, and Clooney directs, and I've liked his previous directorial efforts ("Confessions of a Dangerous Mind," "Good Night And Good Luck") quite a bit. But none of that was enough to elevate this picture above the mediocre level at which it remained throughout. I guess it would be fairer to say that it had constant ups and downs, and in fact, there were moments in the movie that made clear to me that there was a potentially better movie buried underneath the uneven one I was seeing, trying desperately to get out. I really liked, for example, a scene in a speakeasy during which a football team and a group of military men first get into an all-out barfight only to later end up gathered around the piano singing WWI fight songs together. There was real emotion present in that scene, if only for a second. That was really the story of the entire film--emotion, realism, shining through for a second, only to be swiftly swept away by cliche plot developments and overly obvious setups for jokes that just weren't all that funny. The movie was too slow to work as the sort of action-comedy popcorn sports films that we all know and love from the 80s, but where I suppose the slow parts were intended to interject nuance and drama, they often just felt out of place.
In the end, I felt like this movie couldn't decide whether it wanted to be "A League Of Their Own" or "Major League," and therefore didn't succeed in either respect. It's neither fish nor fowl, and I guess the best I can say for it is that it's an ambitious failure on Clooney's part; he obviously challenged himself, and tried to reach beyond what he'd previously done. Unfortunately, he didn't quite make it, and he might do better in future to rein his ambitions in a little. Or at least to avoid sports films.