Monday, October 20, 2008

Movie Review: Leatherheads

I had an awesome weekend, hanging out with Liz Maverick, Hope Tarr, Leanna Renee Heiber and Stacey Agdern, listening to a group of singers on Saturday night at a great Irish pub near Penn Station called Tir Na Nog and having a writing day yesterday where I managed to write 8 handwritten pages on the novel that will never end.

It definitely wiped away the taint of Friday night. That and the retail therapy that I indulged in Saturday and Sunday. I needed a new bag, so I headed over to the GAP and bought a great black patent leather bag and then on Sunday, I used the DSW coupon to buy a new pair of Steve Madden brown leather boots. Hey, they were $20 off!

The only two flies in the ointment of my weekend, and that was the asshole who bumped me on the stairwell to the subway and then proceeded to spew invective about how it was all my fault. I totally understand now how people can flip out because I seriously felt like I wanted to kick the crap out of this guy. The other was watching Leatherheads last night when I got home.

Sigh! I just had bad luck with movies this weekend. Yahoo! movies describes Leatherhead's plot thusly:

"In 1925, Dodge Connolly is 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, 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 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. "

While I thought the premise of this movie was promising, the early days of pro football, and its set during one of my favorite time periods, this movie so did not work on any level, as a sports comedy or as a romantic screwball comedy. First of all, by 1925 the National Football League was already in existence for 5 years, so Dodge Connolly doesn't need to organize professional football. Two, the whole premise of Carter not being a war hero, and not saying anything while he receives medals, is not remotely funny and it wouldn't have been 6 years after the Great War. The banter between Lexie and Dodge is patently strained and not very funny, and there is absolutely no chemistry between George Clooney and Renee Zwellweger. However there was between Lexie and Carter.

There were faint echoes of Bull Durham all throughout this film, particularly with the triangle between Lexie, Carter and Dodge. However, one of the biggest problems with this film, is that the minor characters are not very well developed, particularly the guys on the Duluth Bulldogs. Anyone who has seen Bull Durham remembers the coach, the young born again player, the guy who practiced Santeria, and the young team follower who ends up reforming and marrying the born again player. There was also an African-American player on the team, despite the fact that all professional sports teams were segregated until after WWII.

It's not all dismal, the movie does get some fun over the fact that Dodge Connolly is way over the hill to be a professional football player. And there is a wonderful scene with the great Marian Seldes who interviews Dodge at an employment agency after the team is disbanded, and a scene with Stephen Root as Dodge dictates the sports column that Stephen Root supposedly writes but scenes like that were few and far between.

If the character of Lexie had been a nascent sportswriter, this movie might have had some juice and plenty of comedy to play with the idea of a woman in the 1920's covering the sports beat. Instead she's bogged down in whether to reveal the truth that Carter is not a hero. Plus most of her costumes were not period, they looked more like early 1930's costumes than 1920's.

This movie was just dull, dull, dull. I read on Wikipedia that George Clooney claimed credit for rewriting the script and making more of a screwball comedy (which there hasn't been a successful one since What's Up Doc in the 70's). Credit for the screenplay went to arbitration before the WGA and the original authors received credit not Clooney. Frankly, the writers and the guild should have let him claim credit for this dreck.

Definitely one to skip. Watch 'Bull Durham' again, or even one of the Major League movies, if you want to watch a sports comedy.


Kwana said...

Sounds like a great weekend except that guy and Leatherheads. Sigh.

Elizabeth Kerri Mahon said...

Yeah, I was batting 2-1 this weekend.

Hope Tarr said...

It was great hanging with you, too, Elizabeth and thanks for the movie review. I'm thinking I'll skip LEATHERHEADS, but I am tres excited for the Netflix DVD with Episodes 3 and 4 of "North and South" to arrive in today's mail.

Elizabeth Kerri Mahon said...

Le Sigh! You will just love it. I expect a full report on Thursday.