Saturday, April 05, 2008

'Leatherheads'--A Barrel of Fun

In Kentucky, George Clooney is big. Born in Maysville and related to that other famous Kentuckian of the same name Rosemary Clooney, George can hardly do any wrong in this state. Shoot, his movie even premiered in little ole Maysville, even though it was shot in Columbia and Greenville S.C. and the surrounding area. This PG-13 film clocks in at 1 hour 53 minutes, and frankly, its a lot of fun. Its part Keystone cops, part 20s period piece like that other Kentucky movie (Seabiscuit), part romantic comedy, and altogether enjoyable. Apart from the odd swear word and drunken fist fight (well, after all, its about football players--- 'big strapping men' as Rene Zellweger's character calls them), there is hardly anything to find fault with in this movie. Directed by and starring Clooney, and scene stealer Zellweger it has all the makings of a sure fire winner.

But alas, while it certainly has its moments of fun, intrigue, and some dialogue full of zingers, the actual heart of the story, about the rise of professional football, leaves something to be desired. There are some slow segments in this movie, and surprisingly enough they are mostly during the football scenes themselves. The climactic game at the end of the film mostly falls flat in the mud quite literally, and the conceit that Clooney could switch from one team to the other without anyone noticing is well, .... unconvincing. Don't go to this movie hoping for true football drama, and don't go mistakenly thinking its about leathernecks, rather than leatherheads.

But there are plenty of reasons to see this movie. On the plus side, both Clooney's character 'Dodge Connelly an aging footballer playing for the fictional Duluth Bulldogs, and Zellweger's character Lexie Littleton the newspaper writer both sparkle. Here is Universal's own synopsis of the movie:

"Oscar® winners George Clooney and RenĂ©e Zellweger match wits in Leatherheads, a quick-witted romantic comedy set against the backdrop of America's nascent pro-football league in 1925. Clooney plays Dodge Connolly, a charming, brash football hero who is determined to guide his team from bar brawls to packed stadiums. But after the players lose their sponsor and the entire league faces certain collapse, Dodge convinces a college football star to join his ragtag ranks. The captain hopes his latest move will help the struggling sport finally capture the country's attention. Welcome to the team Carter Rutherford (John Krasinski), America's favorite son. A golden-boy war hero who single-handedly forced multiple German soldiers to surrender in WWI, Carter has dashing good looks and unparalleled speed on the field. This new champ is almost too good to be true, and Lexie Littleton (Zellweger) aims to prove that's the case. A cub journalist playing in the big leagues, Lexie is a spitfire newswoman who suspects there are holes in Carter's war story. But while she digs, the two teammates start to become serious off-field rivals for her fickle affections. As the new game of pro-football becomes less like the freewheeling sport he knew and loved, Dodge must both fight to keep his guys together and to get the girl of his dreams. Finding that love and football have a surprisingly similar playbook, however, he has one maneuver he will save just for the fourth quarter..." --© Universal Pictures

This is a pretty apt description of the film, and it shows that this film really is about a romantic triangle between Connolly, Littleton and Rutherford, and I will leave to your imagination who actually gets the girl.

This I can say. This film is alright for families with older children, but probably too slow, and too much dependent on repartee for younger ones. John Krasinki who plays the 'Bullet' Rutherford is indeed a heart throb, and so there is enough tension in the plot to make it interesting.

It was of course a stretch for Zellweger to play someone who was 31. Born April 25th, 1969 she is in fact close to 40, but this is no more of a stretch than Clooney who was born May 6th 1961 right here in Lexington Ky. (his father Nick, was a newscaster) playing a professional football player when he is pushing 50. Nevertheless, if we suspend our disbelief a bit, and let the film unfold, its fun and funny in various ways.

One side benefit is that Randy Newman wrote the original songs for the show and even plays the piano man in the saloon in one of the movie's scenes, and these songs bring a little zing, and 20s flavor to the film that make it more light hearted and bring a smile.

In a time of dark and dismal films this one is light and charming, though its not quite got the punch of Lexie about whom Dodge opines--- "I know your kind. You're like a drink that comes on all fizzy, but ends like a kick in the head". This one ends more like a kick in the mud.... but then I like Kentucky mudpie, which is actually called Kentucky Derby Pie :) Bon appetit.


Michael Gilley said...

Dear Dr. Witherington,

Sorry, this is off topic but I am contemplating getting "A Marginal Jew" by J. P. Meier and I was wondering your thoughts on his work. I also just finished reading through a work by David Instone-Brewer on divorce in the Gospels, particularly Matthew, and I remembered your commenting about Rabbis (or lack thereof) during Jesus' time, which brought up questions. Have you read his work and if so, what is your opinion of it? Can you give any sources that might help in clarifying his views of reading the sayings of the Matthean Jesus in light of rabbinical teachings on divorce? Thank you so much!

Ben Witherington said...

John Meir's work is first rate, and very thorough. I do not agree with all of it, but much of it is well done. As for Instone-Brewer his work has been throughly critiqued now. See the reviews of his book. Jesus' view is very clear from Mark 10-- no divorce.


Michael Gilley said...

Thank you much! I will look into the critiques and some exegesis on Mark 10.

Falantedios said...


I knew I was going to get blasted when I reviewed your Enns chapter! At least my blog is unpopular enough that only one Enns fan found me.

We have an interesting struggle vis-a-vis divorce and remarriage in the churches of Christ. I don't know how many other groups struggle with this, but the most popular interpretation of the MDR passages in our brotherhood demands that it is a sin for the "one put away" to ever remarry. Is this something that other groups fight about as well?

in HIS love,

Brian said...

a barrel of fun and bomb at the box office...

thunderbeard said...

i saw clooney and zellweger around town here for the premiere. i know a few folks who got in to see it that weekend, and i haven't heard a bad thing about the film. i haven't had a chance to see it yet, but i'm looking forward to it.