Sunday, July 18, 2010

Head Cases

Mrs Spenser, it turns out, is a big Dink Stover fan. I didn't know anything about Dink Stover except that is it an amusing name. She informs me that he is the fictional hero of a series of college football stories from the early 20th century. When I heard about her love for football players in leather helmets, I immediately queued up Leatherheads.

Leatherheads stars director George Clooney as the rough-and-rowdy quarterback of a midwest professional football team, 1925. They are going broke, because nobody is interested in professional football - it's all about the college teams. John Krasinski, by contrast, is a college football star, back from the war, graduated from Yale and contemplating life after football. Clooney offers him a job playing professionally - it's ignoble, but it could bring in some money, and be a bit of a lark.

Besides, there's this cute girl reporter, Rene Zellweger. She is covering Krasinski as a war and sports hero, but Clooney is taking an interest in her.

This isn't really a sports film, but more of a romantic comedy, a bit like Bull Durham. The older, wiser player, the young hotshot, the girl at the peak of the triangle. In fact, it is an attempt at a screwball comedy throwback. Witty repartee and sparks fly between Clooney and Zellweger, they get into situations and complications, they fight and fall in love.

Clooney is so charming, he just glows. His charisma is really all he needs for this. Zellweger, I'm not so sure about. She's kind of funny looking, with chubby cheeks, piggy eyes and a pouty mouth. But she comes across as fun, strong and desirable - I guess that's what they call acting. I don't think she really took off until the very end. She and Clooney have a kind of voice-over dialog as they are shown riding off into the sunset on a motorbike (a beautiful kind of fantasy 1919 Indian). As they banter back and forth, she delivers her lines almost as if she were singing jazz, a little breathy, a little wild. I wish she could have been as free for more of the rest of the film.

I can't say that this is a great movie. Krasinski, for example, was good, but his role didn't give him much to sink his teeth into. Neither did Clooney's, but he didn't need it. I'll just say this is for fans of George Clooney, classic screwball comedies, and Dink Stover.

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