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Friday, January 18 , 2019, 6:40 am | Fair 53º


Cinema in Focus: ‘Leatherheads’

A delightful romantic comedy scores with quirky humor and just plain fun.

3 Stars — Wholesome

The manner in which George Clooney directs and stars in Leatherheads is endearing as well as entertaining. Casting himself as Jimmy “Dodge” Connelly, the partial owner of the fledgling professional football team called the Duluth Bulldogs, Dodge is struggling to keep the team and the league alive in 1925. Defeated, Dodge has the idea of recruiting a college football star and World War I hero, Carter Rutherford (John Krasinski from The Office sitcom). When he succeeds, his life and the league are changed forever.

In this romantic comedy, the woman who is the object of both Dodge’s and Carter’s affections is the alluring Lexie Littleton (Renée Zellweger). An intelligent and confident young reporter for a major newspaper, Lexie is promised an assistant editor’s desk if she will expose Carter as a fraud. But what begins as a story becomes something far more complex as she not only realizes that Carter is a good man, but that she has become enamored with Dodge as well.

The villain of the story is the manipulative and greedy C.C. Frazier (Jonathan Pryce). Having latched onto Carter and using his good looks and heroic fame for product endorsements, Frazier sees the young sport of professional football as a goldmine for his own profit.

Long before there were rules and commissioners watching over professional sports, both the games and the financial schemes were lawless. Although this lack of rules pleased some people like Dodge, it undermined trust in the game while providing no care for the athletes.  Both on and off the field, the players were in danger — whether from Frazier weaseling himself into the athlete’s income or to the physical risks of only wearing leather on their heads rather than helmets.  The solution to this lawlessness is the congressional appointment of former prosecutor Pete Harkin (Peter Gerety) as commissioner.

The comic-book style of Leatherheads, where people can get into fights without bleeding and throw people into mud without breathing makes the film a delightful flight into romantic comedy.  The quirky humor seen even during the credits reminds us of Clooney’s earlier film O Brother, Where Art Thou.  Both will make you smile.


• Although the University of Minnesota is nicknamed the Duluth Bulldogs, they have no football team and there was never a professional team with that name.  Do you believe this film would have had more interest if it had been based at least in part on true events?  Or would that undermine the comedy?

• The implication by Dodge that since the nation needs a war hero, Carter should not tell the truth about what really happened on the battlefield, raises the question of the veracity of many war legends.  Do you believe the heroes we honor do heroic deeds or do we expand the tales out of our need to have heroes?

• Lexie’s decision to write a story after telling Carter he is only telling the truth to her, implies there were also no rules for journalists.  Do you believe the “off the record” conversation she has with Carter when he is clearly trying to be honest and open with her in a dating relationship should be printed?  Why or why not?

Cinema In Focus is a social and spiritual movie commentary. Hal Conklin is a former mayor of Santa Barbara and Denny Wayman is pastor of Free Methodist Church on the Mesa. For more reviews, visit www.cinemainfocus.com.

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