George Clooney’s insistence on playing the strapping buffoon lead is both refreshing and tiresome.
Leatherheads is clearly inspired by his roles in the Coen brothers’ Intolerable Cruelty and O’ Brother Where Art Thou?, where he mixed double-take style kitchen sink slapstick, with movie-star charm and Cary Grant-like smugness.
This is an odd idea, considering these things don’t go together — even remotely. How would the same person even contain this sort of ability? But the fact that Clooney has now done it three times would suggest that he ought to move on.
Clooney, in his directing follow-up to the polar opposite Good Night, and Good Luck, takes not just his acting choices from the Coens, but Leatherheads also has the golden-hued visuals and the frantic screwball style of the two Coen films he starred in.
Unfortunately, Leatherheads sputters along under the impression that it’s a sports comedy about the early days of what theoretically would have become the NFL, and the most important feature is not the humorous jokes or situations, but the endless montages set to “old-timey” music, most of which is taken wholesale from Clooney’s friend and business partner, Steven Soderbergh, and his film King of the Hill.
Leatherheads’ mysterious PG-13 rating aside (which may be the MPAA falling in with some family groups that are pressuring for higher ratings on movies that feature smoking), the film believes itself to be a lot wilder than it actually is. For instance, when the football commissioner says he wants them to play clean, you’d think he was referring to a different film, as all we get are a lot of mild trick plays, and no non-penaltied shenanigans. Besides, this is a movie made for people who don’t know anything about football anyway, as the final “surprise” is a play that is absolutely befuddling in its lack of logic, seemingly suggesting that one of the teams has somehow decided to go in the wrong direction.
While there are some small highlights, such as a terrific suicide gag and an overblown war story told by star player John Krasinski (whose nose gets more close-ups than his face), this is the kind of sloppy, half thought-out movie that Clint Eastwood would have made in the ’80s. Plus or minus a chimp.