In 1925, an enterprising pro football player convinces America’s too-good-to-be-true college football hero to play for his team and keep the league from going under.
Year 1, Day 328
BEFORE: My first (short) week of work comes to a close but I’m continuing with my breakneck pace of movie watching to get back up to date. Today’s double-feature begins with the George Clooney-directed, Leatherheads. I’m a big fan of Clooney’s other works (including Good Night, and Good Luck and The Ides of March) so I’m excited to see how he fares
AFTER: Reading the Wikipedia page after watching this film explains quite a bit. Going into the film I didn’t know Leatherheads was based on historical events (not really a true story, just the general history of football), wasn’t widely liked by critics, or was a comedy (I see this clearly now on the page; I must have glazed over it beforehand). I mention all this not because it forgives the film, but because it could have better prepared me for disappointment.
Expectations always play a part in my opinions. While I do my best to keep an open mind and see how others may view the film (and have many times seen the best in what I’d otherwise flat-out reject), sometimes I can’t see the positives. There were a few positives in Leatherheads, most notably a look at early pro-football that I had no knowledge about and a look at prohibition-era America. Like Secretariat, the attention to detail and period-accuracy is incredible (at least from I could tell) and gave a good look to the film. However, all of this was drastically overshadowed by the screwball comedy style of the film. It wasn’t all bad (I laughed really hard when Big Gus (Keith Loneker) joins the team) but a lot of it seemed out of place. I think the reason is the style clashes too much with the time period the film is set in. Seeing these ridiculous situations and fast-paced exchanges with a bunch of early 20th century football players didn’t seem right. Now further research has informed me that this was actually when the screwball comedy was invented so it might be more relevant than I thought, but it still doesn’t change how it’s implemented in the film. Especially with the overdone newspaper and montage transitions and over-the-top reactions, it misses the mark.
If there is one genre where I typically have unpopular opinions, it’s comedy, which I find surprising given how frequently I laugh in real life. But my views on films such as A Christmas Story, Napoleon Dynamite, or my least favorite, The Princess Bride are often called into question. With Leatherheads, it seems as if my opinion is more in line with the general consensus, with Rotten Tomatoes summing it up nicely, “this pro football romcom is half screwball and half fumble.” The parts I enjoyed, I really enjoyed, but they are few and far between and are no match compared to the rest of the film. If screwball comedies, early football history, or period films, appeal to you, Leatherheads might be a good pick. But I wouldn’t rush out to see it.
RATING: 2 out of 5