Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Rants on Leatherheads

Screwball comedy is an incredibly hard genre to master. The pace at which everything comes flying at you is so swift that it's hard to keep up sometimes. That's why a lot of the classics of the genre need multiple viewings to actually understand the joke. I was completely lost the first time I saw Howard Hawks' Bringing Up Baby, almost to the point that I hated it, but after the second time I saw it, I started understanding what Hawks was trying to accomplish. The jokes became funnier and the pacing made sense. Needless to say, it has become one of my favorite movies.

One of the problems with George Clooney's third directorial feature is that the jokes come too easily, nothing would be gained from a second viewing. That would be fine if Clooney was making an average romantic comedy for a Friday date the local cinema, but he's aiming for screwball and that bar is set a little higher. Leatherheads is almost there, but after awhile it just runs out of steam and runs out of the funny it has.

Don't get me wrong: Leatherheads definitely has a lot going for it. The first half, although it fails to reach the level of screwball perfection it's striving for, is really quite funny. After his average turn in Michael Clayton last year, I'm glad George Clooney is back doing comedy, because that really seems to be his forte. His natural charm here as Dodge Connelly, obviously the Cary Grant of the film, is working overtime here and definitely helps to move things along. John Krasinski is also game for his role as the Ralph Bellamy sad-sack who you know is going to be dumped in the end. Renee Zellweger, although technically not bad and even funny in some parts, really bothered the crap out of me, for an admittedly superficial reason. Was it just me, or was her lower lip outrageously swollen? Whatever it was, I couldn't get over it and she came on screen all I did was stare at her lip.

The second half of the film quickly loses whatever funny it had as it somehow turns into a Capracorn fable, and anyone knows that the only person who can pull off Capracorn is Frank Capra himself. And the inevitable match up between Clooney and Krasinski on the football field is just one bad 80's sports movie cliche after another. I also hated how they tried to build some sort of relationship between them, with Clooney's constant cross-cutting between himself and Krasinski on the field, when during the rest of the film we had no idea of the dynamics between them. Is Clooney jealous of Krasinski's fame, or does he just want to beat the all-American hero? We're never really told what his angle is and the script and Clooney as director never really help out.

While Leatherheads is definitely a fun way to pass 2 hours, don't expect it to be the lost screwball classic of the 30's.

My Rating: *** 1/2

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