Leatherheads is the 3rd film George Clooney directed but it’s sadly arguably his worst directorial effort to date. Clooney of course is one of the biggest movie stars on the planet but his first two directorial effort Confessions of a Dangerous Mind and Good Night, and Good Luck are extremely intelligent films which showed a real cinematic flare. Leatherheads attempts to be a throwback to screwball comedies of the ’30s and ’40s but that rarely works in modern times.
Clooney play the ageing American Football player Dodge Connolly who leads a struggling team. He convinces Princeton college football star, Carter Rutherford (John Krasinski) to play for the team. Rutherford is considered a War hero but the journalist Lexie Littleton (Renée Zellweger) is sent out to find out if the war hero claims are bonus. Rutherworld and Dodge are both after the affections of the journalist.
The finished film very much plays out like a lesser Coen brothers film. This is hardly surprising because Clooney took a lot of inspiration from the Coens when he started directed. Cooney has worked with the Coens numerous times. The film has the look of an old-time quirky American romantic comedy but for the most part the jokes are never touchdowns. However Clooney who is always a charming on-screen presence carries the film on his shoulder pads.
The Coen brothers connection doesn’t just end with Clooney, Stephen Root appears in a small role and has become one of the actors most associated with The Coens in recent years. The great majority of the small roles in the film is loaded with actors who have worked with the Coens at least once. Zellweger who I’ve never been a fan of brings some presence to the role but there are numerous better actresses Clooney could have cast as the object of Dodge and Rutherworld’s desire. Jonathan Pryce however is wonderfully wicked as the shady manager of Rutherworld CC.
Leatherheads remains a minor film in Clooney’s relatively solid run of directorial efforts. Only his latest The Monuments Men is arguably worse but I felt critics were a bit too harsh on another similarly old-fashioned kind of film. It’s enjoyable but if the running time was about 20 minutes shorter it could have made a better film. The disc includes audio and video commentary from Clooney and his producing partner Grant Heslov who has a small role in the film as well.