directed by George Clooney
(Universal, 2008)

A talkie ... that's what Leatherheads is. It's a talkie. No, this isn't referring to the term used in the 1920s when sound was first inserted into movies. I'm speaking of that indelible element that stems from classic movies; that quick-witted, fast-paced dialogue that keeps you reeling, and if you're not paying attention you'll miss some important stuff. Leatherheads, directed by George Clooney, is a nostalgic commemoration of that craft.

It is the simple but entertaining story of three people; Jimmy "Dodge" Connelly (Clooney), Lexie Littleton (Renee Zellweger) and Carter "The Bullet" Rutherford (John Krasinski). The time is 1925, and Dodge is a professional football player with a small problem -- there isn't a professional football league. So, in comes Rutherford, a hero on the Princeton gridiron and on the battlefield of the Great War, to use his star power to give Dodge and professional football a jumpstart. It's not that simple, however, because Rutherford's spectacular display of wartime heroism (when he single-handedly made an entire German platoon surrender) has come under some serious speculation, and reporter Lexie Littleton is apparently just the gal to uncover the real story. With two macho guys, and a reporter that won't quit until she gets the scoop, nature takes over and creates an amusing love triangle.

Well, we can all probably recall a time when we were younger and were suspended in that limbo between being too old for "little kid" movies, but too young for the "big kid" movies, because our minds and attention spans just couldn't keep up. The annoying phrase "what happened" would constantly escape our mouths. That scenario is very much what it is like to watch classic "talkies" in action. The dialogue is delivered at such a quick pace that we lapse back into the "what happened" stage of our lives; unlike most modern films it does not accommodate short attention spans and forces the audience to be active in their viewing pleasure (i.e., they must be able to keep up). Even though Leatherheads isn't quite up to par with the greats like Cary Grant and Grace Kelly in To Catch a Thief or Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall in To Have & Have Not, it provides a delicious sample with constant battles of words between Clooney and Zellweger. It is a sample of a time when dialogue was the life of a movie; it wasn't just a motive for spurring the action forward, it was the brain, the intelligence of it too. If the dialogue was worthless so was the movie. That is not always the case today.

Nonetheless, watching the actors of Leatherheads on the screen was like watching the stars of Hollywood's Golden Age. Cary Grant was channeled through Clooney with his comic facial expressions, suave moves and goofball antics. Zellweger captured the smart sexpot perfectly, embodying Katharine Hepburn as she dangled her legs from an office desk, and Krasinksi, well, he didn't truly distinguish himself in this film, but he could be pegged for a boyish Rock Hudson.

Combining the actor's performances with the magnificent lines they were given to speak, Leatherheads was a wonderful trip back in time for those of us who wish the era was somewhere between the 1940s and the 1950s, and classic movies weren't a piece of film history yet.

review by
Molly Ebert

4 July 2009

Agree? Disagree?
Send us your opinions!

what's new