“Leatherheads” – Susan Granger reviews

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Actor/director George Clooney (“Good Night and Good Luck”) tries a throwback to the Hollywood screwball romantic genre with this sports comedy set in the 1920s, when America’s pro-football league was in its infancy.

Charming Dodge Connolly (Clooney) is an aging player who recruits a hotshot Princeton star/war hero, Carter “The Bullet” Rutherford (John Krasinski from “The Office”), hoping to revitalize the Duluth Bulldogs, a ragtag team of coal miners and farmers whose audience is dwindling. Inevitably, they become rivals for an intrepid newspaper reporter, Lexie Littleton (Renee Zellweger).

Genially noting, “I steal from everybody,” Clooney lifts snippets from directors Howard Hawks, George Cukor, Preston Sturges and the Coen brothers’ “Hudsucker Proxy,” among others. The awkward gracelessness of Zellweger’s Lexie can be traced directly back to Rosalind Russell in “His Girl Friday,” along with her self-assuredness. Cary Grant must have been Clooney’s role model, particularly his amiable elusiveness. Only, Grant’s reactions were usually oblique, while Clooney’s are all too transparent. And the conceit of Krasinski’s character has its antecedents in “Hail the Conquering Hero” with contemporary tinges of John Kerry’s Swift Boat.

While the sharp dialogue by screenwriters Duncan Brantley and Rick Reilly epitomizes quarreling without losing your class – it’s a ritual banter of personal exchange and witty expression – the storyline is as uneven as the pacing. I suspect it may play better on DVD where it will easily recoup its investment, particularly among diehard football fans who may be intrigued by the antiquity of the plays. Back then, for example, passing was considered ‘unmanly,’ so it was rough-and-tumble down-the-middle until one player broke free and ran for the goalposts to score.

On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “Leatherheads” is an admirably stylized 6. Yet as sports comedies go, it fumbles.

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Susan Granger

Susan Granger

Susan Granger is a product of Hollywood. Her natural father, S. Sylvan Simon, was a director and producer at R.K.O., M.G.M. and Columbia Pictures; her adoptive father, Armand Deutsch, produced movies at M.G.M. As a child, Susan appeared in movies with Abbott & Costello, Red Skelton, Lucille Ball, Margaret O'Brien and Lassie. She attended Mills College in California, studying journalism with Pierre Salinger, and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania, Phi Beta Kappa, with highest honors in journalism. During her adult life, Susan has been on radio and television as an anchorwoman and movie/drama critic. Her newspaper reviews have been syndicated around the world, and she has appeared on American Movie Classics cable television. In addition, her celebrity interviews and articles have been published in REDBOOK, PLAYBOY, FAMILY CIRCLE, COSMOPOLITAN, WORKING WOMAN and THE NEW YORK TIMES, as well as in PARIS MATCH, ELLE, HELLO, CARIBBEAN WORLD, ISLAND LIFE, MACO DESTINATIONS, NEWS LIMITED NEWSPAPERS (Australia), UK DAILY MAIL, UK SUNDAY MIRROR, DS (France), LA REPUBBLICA (Italy), BUNTE (Germany), VIP TRAVELLER (Krisworld) and many other international publications through SSG Syndicate. Susan also lectures on the "Magic and Mythology of Hollywood" and "Don't Take It Personally: Conquering Criticism and other Survival Skills," originally published on tape by Dove Audio.