LEATHERHEADS (**1/2) - Starring George Clooney, Renee Zellweger, John Krasinski, Jonathan Pryce, Peter Gerety, Jack Thompson, Stephen Root and Grant Heslov.
Written by Duncan Brantley & Rick Reilly.
Directed by George Clooney.
Clooney has learned a thing or two about screwball comedy from the Coen brothers, and I look forward to this next collaboration with them. However, his efforts here fall just a wee bit short. I'd say his biggest mistake was taking a decade-old screenplay written by two sports writers and rewriting it to fit a screwball-comedy mold. His second biggest mistake was thinking Renee Zellweger could match Rosalind Russell in her ability to deliver witty banter. Anyone who saw Down with Love saw Zellweger couldn't match Doris Day to Ewan McGregor's Rock Hudson, so what chance does she have to do Russell to Clooney's Cary Grant?
Zellweger is a good actress, but she has to be in the right parts. She's not a chameleon. She was great in films like Jerry Maguire and Cold Mountain. Here, you can feel Clooney doing the heavy lifting in their verbal sparring scenes, almost like he's pretending he's still talking to Catherine Zeta-Jones in Intolerable Cruelty.
The script's original point seemed to be that too many rules have ruined pro-football. They mention rules a couple times in the first minute of the movie, and then they don't revisit the theme until the Big Game at the climax of the movie. For over 75 minutes, it's completely ignored, a symptom of a screenplay that's been reworked a few times through the years.
Yet Clooney the Director doesn't completely fumble on this, his third effort (the first two were Confessions of a Dangerous Mind and Good Night & Good Luck). His scenes with The Office's John Krasinski, as the war-hero college stud out to make pro-football relevant, bounce along nicely, and the biggest laughs come from their scenes.
So I enjoyed a lot about it. Zellweger didn't work for me, and it could've been tightened up easily. It felt about fifteen minutes too long. It's probably better as a $1 theater viewing or a DVD rental.
P.S. Before we got tickets, I kept having to remind my wife this wasn't a horror flick. "It's not Leatherfaces; it's Leatherheads."