Clooney promised a fun look at the early days of a sport — Semi-Pro without the dumber jokes — but served up a slightly more humorous version of Flags of Our Fathers.
This is particularly disappointing since it wasn’t just the trailers which promised a break from politics but Clooney himself in his recent New Yorker profile:
“Leatherheads” is “not designed to change the world—it’s just designed to be good fun,” Clooney said, seeming to anticipate critical disappointment. “I was afraid of becoming ‘that issues guy'”—because of “Syriana” and “Good Night, and Good Luck.”
“I wanted to do something completely different. I want to be a director, and if you’re an issues-guy director then the issues change and you’re out, that’s it, you’re done.”
According to the same article, Clooney “significantly rewrote a fifteen-year-old script—although the Writers Guild of America did not award him a formal share of the credit, to his immense private annoyance”. Seeing what the script looked like before he refashioned it would tell us whether his fear of becoming “that issues guy” was a pre- or post-production epiphany.
As for the final product, Krasinski is charming in the Office but somehow manages to be blander than Ann and lack any charisma on the big screen.
Zellweger should have knocked this part out of the park but she sounds like she can’t figure out if she should commit to the hightened mannerism of Down with Love or reign it in, so she just comes across as half-hearted.
I don’t blame her though because the script’s language is difficult to grasp. Not the mild swearing for comic relief (how many times can you repeat a “can’t say that on the radio” joke? It does not get funnier every time) but the expressions in dialogue that sound too 21st century to fit the attempted throwback style.
I like Clooney but he was better in The Peacemaker (he’s probably still trying to atone for saving New York from nuclear terrorism, Team America style). This is Clooney’s least focused acting since his pre-O Brother days, which can probably be chalked up to him being preoccupied with directing duties. Unfortunately this trade off didn’t pay off: Confessions of a Dangerous Mind and Good Night and Good Luck are still his best efforts.