April 14, 2008 12:00 PM

George Clooney, Renée Zellweger, John Krasinski | PG-13 |


George Clooney must have spent many hours tuned to TV’s Turner Classic Movies. This genial comedy about the early days of pro football, which Clooney directed, is an intentional throwback to the daffy screwball comedies of the 1930s and ’40s that are a staple of the cable channel.

Despite Leatherheads’ ’30s and ’40s vibe, the film is set in 1925, when pro football was still trying to establish a cleat-hold and college ball ruled. Hoping to goose attendance, Dodge Connolly (Clooney), the aging quarterback and coach of a ragtag pro team in Duluth, Minn., recruits Carter Rutherford (Krasinski), a wildly popular college gridiron star and WWI hero. Trouble appears when Lexie Littleton (Zellweger), an ambitious reporter, begins poking into Rutherford’s war record. Both men fall for her, though it’s plain from their verbal sparring—the sharpest scenes in the movie—that she and Connolly are meant for each other.

Clooney is raffishly charming, and Krasinski shows a sweet self-effacement. Zellweger settles for imitating Rosalind Russell in His Girl Friday, right down to perching atop desks so that susceptible men will be swayed by her shapely pins. The film is cheerfully entertaining, and you can bring the kids. But, although it strives to be bubbly fun, Leatherheads is more ginger ale than champagne.

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