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Reel Critic:

Football romance misses end zone

April 09, 2008|By Matt Bellner

If you like your romance clean and your football dirty, “Leatherheads” might score a few points on your entertainment scoreboard, but for most movie fans, this PG-13 release will end up being a harmless incomplete pass.

George Clooney directs and stars as Dodge Connelly, an aging professional football player in 1925. His team and league are about to go out of business, so they sign a college football star and war hero named Carter Rutherford (John Krasinski) to generate excitement.

Can Carter bring back the fans and save the game? Which gridiron great will a sexy newspaper reporter choose when two teammates fall in love with her while she covers the team? What does a packed theater sound like when nobody is laughing? I don’t need four quarters to answer these questions, only four paragraphs.

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Two of my favorite pastimes are football and movies, and therefore I was excited to see this film on the big screen. The TV ads and billboards made “Leatherheads” look like it was going to be a raunchy sports comedy, but the marketing department at Universal pulled a flea-flicker on my friend Steve and me. We signed up for laughs, but all we got was a labored love story that lasts 114 minutes. Now I know how Charlie Brown felt when Lucy pulled the football away just before he kicked it, and I’m not happy.

Contrary to popular belief, I like watching romantic movies, but definitely not with the pitcher of my softball team as my chaperon.

No offense to Steve, but I should have taken a date to make the experience more enjoyable.

I’m being a little hard on “Leatherheads,” but sports movies bring out the competitor in me, and that’s why I’m so critical. However, I do want to praise the efforts of the cinematographer and wardrobe department. The visual style is stunning and the period uniforms were certainly All-Pro on my stat sheet. The football action is also authentic and not completely over the top like similar movies. As usual, I can always find something positive to talk about. The experience of seeing this film with a large crowd was very odd, to say the least. The pacing of “Leatherheads” is similar in nature to a live stage play where the cast holds for laughter during a scene.

Sadly, my audience barely chuckled, and some paying customers actually left early, treating the movie like a typical Detroit Lions game.

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