Author: Laura Bowen
A few years back, I believed that George Clooney had reached a point in his cinematic career where he really could do no wrong. Unfortunately, I was wrong.
Clooney is currently starring in Leatherheads, a romantic comedy with Renee Zellweger, that Clooney himself directed. Though having John Krasinski of The Office also star in the film would seemingly merit some good laughs, the film finds ways to disappoint in all of the aspects that make romantic comedies enjoyable.
Set in the Midwest during the 1920’s, Clooney plays professional football player Dodge Connelly, whose team-as opposed to the corporation-driven NFL of today-is hardly respected. There are few prerequisites for participation, though skill is not a consideration for recruit-worthy college football players, who spark the public’s real interest. Presumably, the antics of this gang of rough-and-tumble players would be enough to sustain laughs throughout the movie. However, only one of the players (who finds his niche as the fat, dimwitted one) is distinguishable from the others; even if he is the butt of only a few jokes.
The team ends up going bankrupt, so Connelly-now a 45-year-old with no real work skills-has to find a way to earn money and restart the team. This is how he meets college football star and war hero Carter Rutherford (Krasinski) and reporter Lexie Littleton (Renee Zellweger). Littleton is interviewing Rutherford with hopes to expose him as a fraud. In a ridiculous turn of events, Connelly manages to charm Rutherford into leaving college and playing for his professional team, thereby bringing celebrity status and revenue to the squad.
Clooney’s reliance on goofy facial expressions, quick wit and good looks is disappointing, to say the least. Essentially, he has the same mannerisms (and hairstyle) that he had in the Coen Brothers’ O Brother, Where Art Thou? but this time he lacks good dialogue and meaningful character development. His reliance on a shell reflects poorly on his skills as an actor as well as a director-two positions in which one would expect him to have real potential.
Zellweger plays the love interest of both Krasinski and Clooney’s characters; this is unbelievable considering that she spends most of the movie unattractively sassing any man in her presence, and scrunching up her face to convey every emotion. Also, her role as an ardent feminist is overused and underacted.
I had hoped that Krasinski’s heart-melting grin would be the savior in all this, but unfortunately he has been typecast by television as the ultimate nice guy and his character’s flaws in the plot are very difficult to accept.
Admittedly, the costumes and set designs were very well done and they seemed truly authentic for the era of the film. Though an enjoyable aspect of the movie, it was countered by Randy Newman’s over-the-top soundtrack that dramaticized a hardly serious movie.
When it comes to romantic comedies, standards are usually set pretty low considering the essentially unchanging rotation of plots and characters. However, Leatherheads failed to meet even these low expectations. The plot was not comedic enough because the jokes failed to flow consistently and it wasn’t romantic enough because of the lack of chemistry between all three actors. What had the potential to be a delightful-although perhaps not very complex-addition to Clooney’s career turned out to be one that I hope, for his sake, will be forgotten.
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