George Clooney is the new Tom Brady


Now that New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady is out for the season, the National Football League needs a new pretty-boy talent. Oakland Raider Jamarcus Russell ain’t gonna cut it (he sucks); the same goes for Dallas Cowboy Tomo Romo (too goofy). So it’s a good thing George Clooney’s Leatherheads is out next week: Neo-jock Clooney can be the new NFL poster boy.

His film, pre-World War II comedy, documents football in its nascent years, when players wore only leather helmets and crowds went to baseball stadiums instead of football arenas (what?!). Clooney is Dodge Connelly, a longstanding player in the twilight of his career who, when his team goes under, forks over his own cash to finance a new squad, including pigskin phenom and war hero Carter Rutherford (John Krasinski, the guy that all the chicks like from The Office). Rutherford brings in thousands of fans, but also attracts the wrong kind of attention, that of Lexie Littleton (Renée Zellweger), a reporter who’s skeptical of Rutherford’s war-hero cred.

Clooney as director is unpolished but seasoned. As an actor, he’s very much in Oh Brother, Where Art Thou? mode, using shtick as a crutch, unless he’s on screen with Zellweger, with whom his repartee is excellent. In fact, Leatherheads has a lot of great one-liners and punch lines, a comedic timing Clooney no doubt established upon making three films with Joel and Ethan Coen.

But in spite of the film’s quick wit, craft (he’s practically hijacked Steven Soderbergh’s crew, e.g., editor Stephen Mirrione, who keeps the story moving), and Randy Newman’s ragtime score, it can’t escape its own Hollywood devices. Love scenes with Clooney and Zellweger drag and, unlike the Coens, Clooney lacks a critical edge—cynicism, in particular—so what could have been a historical look at a game gone sour becomes a lighthearted tribute to America’s new pastime. Poster boy, to be sure.

Still, Leatherheads has more excitement than a Raiders game.