..

LEATHERHEADS
Blu-ray Edition

Film review by Gordon Justesen
Technical specs by Michael Jacobson

Stars: George Clooney, Renee Zellweger, John Krasinski, Jonathan Pryce
Director: George Clooney
Audio: DTS HD 5.1, Dolby Digital 2.0
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 1.85:1
Studio: Universal
Features: See Review
Length: 114 Minutes
Release Date: September 23, 2008

ďYou think youíre the slickest operator in Duluth, and maybe you are. But being the slickest operator in Duluth is kind of like being the worldís tallest midget, if you ask me.Ē

ďItís too bad we know each other so well. We might have gotten along.Ē

ďWell, Iíll live.Ē

ďALONE.Ē

Film ***

Being a South Carolinian, Leatherheads holds a special place in my heart. A good bit of the filmís production was shot not too far from where I reside. When I first heard that George Clooney was going to be shooting his next directorial project in the upstate area, I was both extremely excited and proud.

 

At the same time, I wasnít going to let one bit of bias go into my reaction to Leatherheads. But I didnít need to worry about that because the movie is a rousing piece of entertainment. Itís Clooneyís most mainstream directorial effort to date, but it goes to show that as a filmmaker he can work well with various genres.

 

With this film, Clooney is putting on quite a balancing act. Leatherheads is a screwball comedy, a story about football, and a one of a kind throwback to the dialogue-driven romantic comedies of the 1940s. Thatís quite a mixture for a film that comes close to a two hour running time, but Clooney handles the proceedings with the greatest of ease. It may have been a hard film to sell to a mainstream audience, but if thereís one thing I can say about the movie itís thisÖitís one hell of a crowd pleaser.

The story takes place in 1925, during the birth of professional football. Dodge Connelly (Clooney) is the team captain of the Duluth Bulldogs, a team that soars at playing the game at a time when the term ďrulesĒ werenít associated at all. But the team finds itself broke after losing their sole sponsor at the beginning of their season.

So Dodge has to come up with a plan to secure the future of his team, and it doesnít take long before one presents himself. Enter Carter Rutherford (John Krasinski), the top college player in the country. He also happens to be a celebrated war hero, having single-handedly helped in the surrendering a German soldier unit.

Dodge proposes that Carter leave college to play for Duluth. And since Carterís war-hero status has already sparked a number of endorsement deals, immediate public interest in pro football should be guaranteed. Indeed, stadiums are soon packed with fans, but Dodge soon comes to grips with the fact that all of the interest is focused on Americaís golden boy, Carter.

Also in the mix is Chicago Tribune reporter Lexie Littleton (Renee Zellweger), who is getting paid to profile Carter in the midst of his league transition. Carter, of course, is smitten with the snappy journalist and Lexie, in return, does show signs of flirting. However, she and Dodge have already ignited some flirting of their own.

I went into Leatherheads expecting mostly a football flick, and while it does have a number of uniquely executed game scenes, the area where it really shines is the romantic chemistry between Clooney and Zellweger, who are very much the modern day Cary Grant and Rosalind Russell. And you get the feeling, while watching them exchange words, that they donít even have to try very hard in terms of turning on the charmÖit just comes naturally. Weíve always thought of Clooney to be this generationís Cary Grant, and this film, along with the vastly underrated Intolerable Cruelty, is the full proof that he is.

The movie also nails the look and feel of the 1920s through the flawless production design, courtesy of James D. Bissell. The music of Randy Newman and the cinematography from Newton Thomas Sigel, which has a unique color hue, also do remarkable job in conveying the feel of the era. To know that Clooney went to extreme lengths to get the setting right for a simple charming romantic comedy really illustrates his dedication to filmmaking.

If the film has a flaw, itís only a tendency to drag a bit near the end as several plot conflicts are resolved. But thatís really just a minor complaint. Thatís a common flaw thatís hard for many movies to escape.

In the end, this is a movie that achieves everything it sets out to be. Itís an awfully funny, engaging period piece that won me over instantly. It may not represent an elevation for Clooney as a filmmaker, but thatís only because he wasnít setting out to make anything significantly important as his last two films, but rather something that just plain old-fashioned entertainment, and itís certainly that!

Video ****

I like the way well-filmed period movies look in high definition, and while George Clooney and company delivered the goods with the movie, the Blu-ray offering from Universal makes sure that fans don't miss out on anything they've created.  The color schemes and art direction really take you back in time, and the level of detail both on and off the field is superb...you'll feel like you're really there!

Audio ****

The DTS HD mix sounds fantastic...I very much enjoyed the blend of period music (a period of time I absolutely love as far as the tunes go), the screwball comedy hijinks, the clean clear dialogue, and the football action, which helps give an otherwise level track a bit of dynamic punc here and there.

Features ***

Universal does this release quite nicely in the extras field. Starting things off is a most funny commentary track with George Clooney and producer Grant Heslov. Clooney balances filmmaking facts with a great sense of humor, never resisting an opportunity to poke fun at himself in the process. The Blu-ray doesn't include the extras in the same way they appeared on the DVD, but what Universal gives us here I like even better.  It's their exclusive "U-Control" feature, which allows you to watch the extra footage and interviews and such via picture-in-picture, and you can bring up exactly what you want when you want it with a simple click of the remote.

Summary:

Leatherheads is a film that is simply impossible to resist, as it has loads of charm to spare. Itís also a top-notch piece of filmmaking courtesy of George Clooney. Whether you desire a sports movie, a screwball farce, or a classic style romantic comedy, the film delivers in all areas.

FREE hit counter and Internet traffic statistics from freestats.com