Friday, January 9, 2009

Friday's Featured Film - 1/9/09

New movies are usually released to theaters every Friday, but who’s got 10 bucks these days to drop on a movie that may well be a load of crap? Given those odds, each Friday I offer an alternative on DVD that you can rent at your local video store (or in some cases, avoid at all costs). Some will be new releases, others you may have to hunt for, but all of them are available to light up your small screen should it be a lazy Friday night.


I’m a fan of George Clooney’s work as an actor (provided that one strikes Batman & Robin from the record). Though I wasn’t a huge fan of the movie, he showed promise as a director with Confessions of a Dangerous Mind several years ago. I haven’t seen his much-acclaimed Good Night and Good Luck, but after watching Leatherheads with my family last week I’m convinced that Clooney’s talent extends to working behind the camera as well as in front of it. The movie was nothing to write home about, but its style, charm, and sense of humor made for an enjoyable evening.

Set in the 1920s, the movie tells the story of the birth of pro football, with Clooney playing Dodge Connelly, star player of the Duluth Bulldogs. With his career nearing an end, the Bulldogs in financial trouble, and the fledgling league close to folding, Dodge sets out to save and legitimize pro football by signing college star and war hero Carter Rutherford (John Krasinski of The Office fame). Rutherford draws crowds and fame to Duluth, as well as the attention of Chicago reporter Lexi Littleton (Renee Zellweger), who is out to prove that Carter’s war heroism is more legend than fact. With the crowds, the press, and unexpected consequences (in the form of actual rules) swirling, Dodge and the Bulldogs chase a championship and a place in the national sports scene.

Clooney gives the movie a great style and wit. My mom described the movie as having a Vaudeville feel that really fit the time period, and I think she’s right. The writing, the pacing, and even the screwball way the football scenes were shot all produce a movie that encapsulates the comedic legacy of that period in time. The cast is very good, with Clooney and Zellweger in particular having a great rapport together. If there's a weak link, it's Krasinski. As an Office fan, that's hard for me to say, and he's not bad - he just doesn't quite hold his own with some of the other heavy-hitters on screen. The movie is light – nothing that you’ll remember a year from now, nothing that will make your all-time Top 10 list, but an enjoyable evening of entertainment. If you’re a fan of any of the movie’s actors, of Clooney’s direction, of football, of 20’s period pieces, check this one out. There’s an angle here that most everyone will enjoy. You probably won’t love it, but I can almost guarantee you won’t hate it, and in today’s cinematic landscape, that’s something. - *** (out of 4)

Leatherheads is rated PG-13 for brief strong language.


Darius said...

Decent film, very light but worth a rent. I agree with your review. As a side note, it was filmed out there in Carolina; a friend of mine had a bit part as a football player extra.

Speaking of Clooney movies, Intolerable Cruelty was pretty fun.

D.J. Williams said...

Loved Intolerable Cruelty - very underrated film.