In a nutshell, Bored & Dangerous says: “I found myself wanting to like it more than I did, and wanting to be more engaged than I was.”
Recently, in my neighbourhood, I saw something that’s all too common these days. A video shop that was closing down. They had a big sign out the front, “4 movies for $10”. I looked in my wallet, saw $30 and decided I wasn’t leaving that shop until I found 12 movies I thought were worth having on my DVD shelf. Some were movies I’d seen before. Some were movies I had a vague idea about and thought would be worth the $2.50 gamble. Some were oddities I’d never even heard of, but they looked interesting enough. So, thank you, Network Video Brunswick West. I never rented anything from you or even had a membership, but I did find some cool, interesting and mysterious things on your almost empty shelves.
“Yeah, I kissed her! On the mouth, twice! And I liked it. A lot!”
As a director, George Clooney burst out of the gate and hit the ground running. Confessions of a Dangerous Mind seemed way too complicated, intricately filmed and confident to be the work of a first timer. And with Goodnight and Good Luck, Clooney even scored an Oscar nomination for his work behind the camera. But his more recent efforts haven’t been quite so well received. While I really liked it, the rest of the world was uick to dismiss The Monuments Men. And even having Ryan Gosling on the posters couldn’t get anyone to see The Ides of March. But the real oddity amongst his filmography of serious, prestige subject matter, is his third crack at directing. The throw away, screwball comedy, Leatherheads.
It’s 1925, and while college football games are attracting crowds in their thousands, the professional league plays in cow paddocks to audiences of next to no one. The poster boy for the college competition is Carter Rutherford (John Krasiniski), a World War I hero who’s about to graduate and leave football behind as he heads to law school. While the pros are represented by Dodge Connelly (Clooney), and his ragtag group of underdogs, the Chicago Bulldogs. When the Bulldogs lose their sponsorship, the team is disbanded, and they all go back to their jobs as miners, factory workers and laborers.
All except the middle aged Dodge, who has no skills or experience outside of football. So, he decides to legitimise professional football, and figures the best way to do that is to recruit the fresh faced Carter Rutherford. Meanwhile, Chicago newspaper editor, Harvey (Jack Thompson) has received a tip that maybe Rutherford isn’t quite the war hero he claims to be. So he sends reporter Lexie Littleton (Renee Zellweger) in to get the dirt. And of course, it’s not long before there’s a love triangle between Dodge, Lexie and Rutherford.
George Clooney is one of the most charming sons of bitches in movies today. John Krasinski is enormously and goofily engaging. Even Renee Zelwegger can deliver on the cutesy stuff at times. So I don’t know what it is, but Leatherheads just never quite adds up to equaling the sum of its parts.
I watched Leatherheads six or seven years ago when it was still fresh. Re-watching it today, I had a similar experience to that initial viewing. I found myself wanting to like it more than I did, and wanting to be more engaged than I was. But like the last time, my attention wandered. All of a sudden I’d be in a different room of the house, or aimlessly looking at my phone. I love George Clooney the director, and I still don’t think he’s made anything that could be called bad. But I would call Leatherheads inessential. There are worse ways to spend a couple of ours, but it wouldn’t take much searching around Netflix to find a better alternative.