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Vol. LXII, No. 15
Wednesday, April 9, 2008
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For more movie summaries, see Kam’s Kapsules.

RAH, RAH, SIS BOOM BAH!: Ambitious investigative reporter (Renée Zellweger) takes a break from her muckraking investigations to cheer on her favorite football team the Duluth Bulldogs.

Leatherheads Clooney, Zellweger in Screwball Comedy Set in the Roaring Twenties

Kam Williams

It is the height of the Roaring Twenties, an era generally associated with overindulgence and excessive exuberance in spite of Prohibition. The decade also witnessed the introduction of professional football in America. As the film opens, we meet Jimmy “Dodge” Connelly (George Clooney) who is the owner, captain, and coach of the Duluth Bulldogs.

While most folks fail to see much of a future in a game that is played on turnip fields by miners, farmers, and World War I veterans, Dodge can foresee the fledgling league’s potential as a popular spectator sport.

In addition, the aging athlete is still a kid at heart who would like to continue playing indefinitely, regardless of how old he is.

However, the Bulldogs have more of a reputation for brawling in speakeasies than for greatness on the gridiron, and so they find themselves without a sponsor and teetering on the brink of bankruptcy. In order to save his team from financial collapse, Connelly comes up with an inspired idea that he hopes will increase the teams’s box-office receipts.

He plans to offer a record-setting contract to Princeton University graduate Carter Rutherford (John Krasinski), provided the football star abandons his plans to attend Yale Law School and instead becomes a professional player. In addition, Carter is a celebrated World War I hero who allegedly captured a platoon of German soldiers single-handedly during the Battle of the Argonne Forest in Northern France.

Carter signs up and, sure enough, the gamble works. Sportswriters covering the Bulldogs begin writing articles recounting the veteran’s exploits and enormous crowds start flocking to the team’s games. However, a fly in the ointment appears when Lexie Littleton (Renée Zellweger), an ambitious investigative journalist, arrives on the scene.

She suspects that the patriot’s war record might have been a bit embellished, so she sets about doing a little digging to uncover the truth. To complicate matters, she finds herself involved in a love triangle when she is being pursued by both Carter and Dodge.

Written and directed by George Clooney, Leatherheads is an old-fashioned screwball comedy cut from the mold of a Preston Sturges farce. Half slapstick, half romantic romp, the picture is at its best in the scenes that feature a witty exchange of repartee between Clooney and Zellweger. Reminiscent of Tracy and Hepburn, the two Academy Award-winners generate an endearing chemistry between themselves on the screen.

If the rest of the script had measured up to their inspired exchanges, the movie might have been more than a momentary diversion. Instead, what we have is a pleasant period piece harking back to days of yore, but one so superficial that it’s likely to be forgotten by the time you leave the theater.

Good (2 stars). Rated PG-13 for brief profanity. Running time: 114 minutes. Studio: Universal Pictures.

For more movie summaries, see Kam's Kapsules.

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