Leatherheads (2008)

Rated: PG-13 for brief strong language.
Length: 114 minutes
Budget: $58 million
Box Office: $45 million (31 US, 9 Intl, 5 DVD)

Written by: Two movie writing unknowns, Duncan Brantley and Rick Reilly, two Sports Illustrated writers. However, Clooney had significant impact on the final version of their 17-year-old script, though the WGA declined to grant him writing credit for the film. Stephen Soderbergh also had a hand in the finished product.
Directed by: George Clooney, most famous for his acting, but also the director of Good Night and Good Luck and Confessions of a Dangerous Mind.
Starring: George Clooney, Renee Zellweger, John Krasinksi, Jonathan Pryce, and Stephen Root, yes Milton the stapler guy.

This fictionalized account of the origins of modern professional football in the 1920s tells the story of a longtime pro player who tries to rescue the game from extinction by recruiting one of the top college players, a war hero, to play. But there are rumors that his war story is exaggerated, and a sarcastic reporter is tasked to expose the truth.

Entertainment Value: A-
Silly, charming, cute, and witty. This screwball comedy version of the original story was extremely entertaining. In fact, it sort of grew on me as the movie played on. Clooney and Zellweger are brilliant, and the thing that makes this movie work is the staccato dialogue which harkens back to the golden age of black and white romantic comedies of the 30s and 40s.

Superficial Content: C
Drugs/Alcohol C, Sex/Nudity B+, Violence B, Language C-, Illegality C
Set during Prohibition, the consumption of illegal alcohol is a constant issue, with several scenes taking place in speakeasies and people getting drunk and even brawling. There is plenty of smoking. Language justifies the PG-13. There are some mild sexual references, but certainly nothing awful. There are some war scenes and plenty of fighting. I wish they would have done it without the language, because it would otherwise be an outstanding film.

Significant Content: B
The major themes here are about corruption, honesty, loyalty, rules, and perseverance. It’s important to tell the truth and not exaggerate. People need heroes, even if they’re fabricated ones. Rules bring order but they eliminate the fun of chaos and cheating. It’s pretty much okay to do whatever you think is necessary to get the results you need. Mutual contempt is a great basis for romance.

Artistic/Thought Value: B+
This is a light-hearted, feel-good sort of movie, so it’s not heavy on the deep stuff. But for artistic value, the detail in the scene creation is amazing, especially given the difficulty of finding this vintage of props. And, once again, I loved the recreated feel of the old style romantic comedies of yesteryear.

Discussion Questions:
~Why do people need heroes? Is their need for heroes more important than their need for the truth? Which is more valuable: fake heroes or disappointing truth? Why do people get so angry when you try to reveal the imperfections or flaws of a hero? How is hero-worship an element of any country at war and also of sports? What about celebrities? Where do we get our heroes today?
~Is football better because of all the rules, or would you rather watch a game more like the way it was portrayed in this movie?
~Is Dodge a good person? Consider his wisdom, his honesty, and his friendship in your answer. Would you want him for your friend?
~Does the exaggeration over Carter’s story bother you very much?
~CC, Lexie, and Dodge all go after their goals with ruthlessness. But the movie clearly intends us to see their endeavors differently. Why so, and is the movie’s perspective fair?

Overall Grade: B+
Thoroughly enjoyable. I’m annoyed that this didn’t do better at the box office, and it kills me that Forgetting Sarah Marshall made three times as much as this film.

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