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:: Leatherheads

George Clooney has invested a lot of time and money into new drama/comedy, ‘Leatherheads’. He not only gives an outstanding performance in his portrayal of rough footballer, Dodge Connelly; but also takes his seat in the director’s chair, and his new production company, Smokehouse, is the one responsible for this gem.

At a quick glance ‘Leatherheads’ shouldn’t really appeal to an audience outside the U.S. market; films about American Football rarely do, however to dismiss ‘Leatherheads’ as ‘just-another-gridiron-movie’ is a huge mistake; a mistake that could make you miss out on one of the best comedies of the year.

The film tells the story of Dodge Connelly (George Clooney) a forty-something footballer who plays pro-football with the Duluth Bulldogs. But this isn’t pro-football as we know it today. Way back in 1925 pro-football was played in cow paddocks, in front of a crowd of around 20 and the teams themselves were held together by budgets so tight that teams simply didn’t know if they could afford to get to their next match. Dodge and his teammates don’t play to any rules; they do whatever it takes to win. But when the Bulldogs finally go broke Dodge isn’t ready to give up. He meets up with star College player/War Hero, Carter ‘The Bullet’ Rutherford (John Krasinski) and his ruthless manager CC Frazier (Jonathan Pryce) and convinces them to allow Carter to play for the Bulldogs; he fills stadiums in college football so why can’t he do the same in pro-football? Standing in the way of this plan working is smart-mouthed journalist, Lexie Littleton (Renee Zellweger) who is planning to write a story revealing that Carter isn’t the war hero he claims to be.

‘Leatherheads’ works on a number of levels. The acting is brilliant, but then what do you expect when two Oscar winners (Clooney and Zellweger) lead the cast. Their performances are only made better by the terrific script produced by first time screenwriters, Duncan Brantley and Rick Reilly. Both are experienced sports journalists, which explains why they have captured the essence of pro-football so well, but doesn’t explain how they have managed to produce a smart, intelligent comedy that does what some few comedies manage to achieve today; and that is get the audience to laugh. The script is one of the best comedy scripts to surface in a long while and uses all versions of comedy, from visual slap stick to witty one-liners without ever falling short of the mark.

Clooney’s work as director is also faultless and he brings a brilliant (if not risky) style to the film. He has certainly taken the film right back to the 1920s by making it seem like it was actually released then. The 1920s Universal Films symbol and titling as well as the forged antique photographs could have come across as really cheesy, but here they enhance the film and are a genuine stroke of genius.

‘Leatherheads’ is an intelligent comedy that will be greatly appreciated by film lovers that just don’t find most romantic or teenage comedies funny. While it is a story about footballers, you really don’t need to know anything about gridiron, and with its exceptional characters and intriguing storyline you’ll soon forget that it’s about sport anyway.

Clooney obviously learnt something in his time working with the Coen brothers as ‘Leatherheads’ is one of the comedies of the year.