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Stars: George Clooney, Renee Zellweger, John Krasinski, Jonathan Pryce, Wayne Duvall, Jack Thompson

Director: George Clooney

Clooney presumably set out to make a screwball comedy in the style of such classics as The Front Page and Bringing Up Baby. Unfortunately, while this American football-based comedy does contain some basic genre ingredients, notably Zellweger's wise-cracking independent (for the period, that is, since the film is set in 1925) female journalist being pursued by the two leads – Clooney and Krasinski, the former a fortysomething (one of the film’s better jokes) football player, and the latter the ex WW1 hero-turned-college football star Clooney recruits in the hope of saving his floundering small-time team’s bacon when their sponsor walks out on them - it doesn't come close to the films it copies.

Sadly the lumbering screenplay by Duncan Brantley and Rick Reilly is far too obviously characterised (the one exception being the agent played by Pryce) so that almost all the protagonists emerge essentially as a collection of cliches. It's also, for a would-be comedy, not very funny. Nor, for that matter, particularly romantic either,

Zellweger does her best, cracking what few wisecracks there are with a valiant effort, born, I imagine, of desperation and fluttering her eyelashes and cigarette holder like an about-to-take-off helicopter - but, frankly, she’s miscast. Clooney’s self-admiration becomes wearisome before long. And, if you’re not a fan of American football, then to paraphrase Looney Tunes, “That’s about all there is, folks!”

Clooney doubles as director and does a smooth enough job but fails to make a touchdown. The games themselves are well staged, notably one played in a muddy field where the players end up looking like golems, and Randy Newman’s jaunty score is a considerable asset - but not enough of one to save Leatherheads (sorry about the mixed metaphor) from being kicked into touch long before the end credits.

Alan Frank

USA 2008. UK Distributor: Universal. Colour.
114 minutes. Widescreen. UK certificate: PG.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 0, Violence/Horror 0, Drugs 0, Swearing 0.

Review date: 10 Apr 2008