Plot: What’s it about?
It’s hard to imagine life without pro football these days, isn’t it? While I’m more of the armchair quarterback and can live without pros, there are many that can’t. Watching “Leatherheads” made me realize that there was a time when there wasn’t a “Pro” football league and that college football was (and in many ways, still is) the sport to watch. That said; let’s turn our attention to one George Clooney. There’s not a lot this guy does that doesn’t end up being a success of some sort, though “Leatherheads” might be the exception to that rule. He’s won Oscar gold, he’s become “critically-acclaimed” in the last decade and let’s face it, he’s made some pretty good movies that were liked by audiences and critics alike. There’s really not a lot to dislike about Mr. Clooney. This marks Clooney’s third effort as a director of a feature film (the previous two being “Good Night and Good Luck” for which he was nominated for Best Director and “Confessions of a Dangerous Mind”). So while all the elements were there, why did the movie bomb at the box office?
Clooney plays brash football star Dodge Connelley, who wants to see football become a professional sport that people actually watch. However the league loses its biggest sponsor and as a result the different teams around the country are throwing in the towel due to the lack of fans. College football, however, is still very popular and none more so than Carter Rutherford (John Krasinski). Carter left college to go fight in World War I and as it turns out managed to get an entire platoon of Germans to surrender. Carter’s revered as a national hero and recruited to play for Duluth (Dodge’s team) where the hope is that his namesake will ignite the enthusiasm for professional football. This is all too easy, of course, because we have Lexie Littleton (Renee Zellweger), a spunky reporter who sees a few holes in Carter’s story. Will she exploit Carter and ruin professional football or will all work out in the end?
“Leatherheads”, like so many other sports movies before it, focuses less on the actual playing of the game and more on life outside the lines. There’s nothing wrong with that, of course, but I felt like this movie needed more football and a little less Zellweger. In terms of a “Clooney movie” this ranks somewhere near the bottom for me (assuming we’re discounting everything before “Batman and Robin” except for “From Dusk til Dawn”) as it just didn’t seem to do much. It was kind of a like a great wind up with no delivery. There are some good scenes in the film and some memorable moments but didn’t really seem to go anywhere. Maybe with football season in full swing, the movie will find new life on the home market, but it’s clear to see why “Leatherheads” was a bit lethargic last spring.
Video: How does it look?
Universal’s 1.85:1 VC-1 HD transfer is pretty good and to me it’s hard to picture movies in the past in color. Call me crazy, but I’ve become so used to seeing things in the 20’s and 30’s in black and white that when we see color, it’s a bit strange (or maybe my point of view is just strange). Nevertheless, the transfer is rock solid with very little to complain about. The palette is a bit muted and we see detail like never before with the mud on the field, the wrinkles in Clooney’s skin and the threads in the football jerseys. Yes folks, this is what HD is all about pointing out imperfections in something we thought had none. It’s a day and date Blu-ray release and as such holds up with some of the better transfers out there. There’s a few set backs here and there, but by and large it’s a top notch transfer.
Audio: How does it sound?
“Leatherheads” has a decent-sounding DTS Master Audio uncompressed mix to accompany the film. We don’t get the clichd “thump” or “whack” with some of the more recent football movies, instead this is a fairly uneventful track. Randy Newman’s music helps move the film along and dialogue is the focus of most of the movie here. I wasn’t too terribly impressed with the soundtrack, but then again I don’t think I was supposed to be.
Supplements: What are the extras?
Universal has given “Leatherheads” their U-Control, where we can see a picture-in-picture commentary with director George Clooney. The visual commentary is fairly interesting and we can see Clooney’s motivation for wanting to make the film. I felt a better connection when watching this as we can see how the actors/directors look and react to the movie while watching it, it’s a more intimate experience than just listening to voices over a film. We also get a trio of featurettes with “Football’s Beginning: The Making of Leatherheads” which has some interviews with the three main stars of the film as well as some behind the scenes footage. Next up is “No pads, no fear: The rowdy football scenes” as we see some of the preparation of the football scenes and a look at their training for the film. Finally we all know that Clooney is a prankster on the set and we see the biggest doozy of them all, set up and executed by George Clooney nonetheless. We also get a side by side visual effects comparison and some deleted scenes.