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WHOLE NEW BALL GAME; Movie reviews Bad jokes and violent tactics can't stop Clooney's charm from making this American football tale a hit LEATHERHEADS *** PG.

Byline: Siobhan Synnot

I'M not impressed by American football, a game that is weirdly keen on stopping every few minutes so the players can have a big old chat about how things are going.

American football combines the two worst things about America: violence and committee meetings.

On the other hand, what's not to like about George Clooney? He's the driving force behind Leatherheads, a valentine to the game back in the Twenties when men were men, women were sassy, and cigarettes were said to be downright good for you.

George plays Jimmy "Dodge" Connolly, the ageing leader of the Duluth Bulldogs, aprofessional American football team at atime when the game was still thought of as a minor sport.

When George's team have a game, their main spectators are grazing cattle. So to save the team from extinction, he signs up a popular war hero and talented football player Carter "Bullet" Rutherford (Jim Krasinski) to the Bulldogs.

But hard-nosed reporter Lexie Littleton (Renee Zellweger) has been tipped off that Carter is not the war hero he claims to be, so she follows the team and digs for the truth.

And when she becomes charmed by both Dodge and Carter, it complicates the complications.

Leatherheads is not a bad movie, although some of the screwball banter will make you groan at its cheesiness - "You're only as young as the women you feel".

Leatherheads' plot twists also hinge on some pretty creaky coincidences - Carter's manager CC Frazier (Jonathan Pryce) finds out what Lexie's up to because he overhears a desk clerk repeat a phone message left by her editor, word for word, something hotel staff only do in movies which are a bit stuck for ideas.

On the other hand, it's amusing to see Renee, who'll turn 40 next year,

claim that she's 29 and her scenes with Clooney are among the sparkiest in the film.

Their first meeting, where George pretends to be absorbed in an article about canning peaches in the Ladies Home Journal, is delightful.

However, George really should stop Renee from scrunching up her face whenever Lexie is deep in thought - it makes her look like a hamster trying to do hard sums.

Watching the football games is more of aslog, however.

For ageing veterans like Dodge, football is a way to have fun in a lot of mud, hanging laundry on the side of a moving train car and getting into a good old-fashioned bar fight any time someone called you "grandpa."

But audiences may feel there's a limit to how many times you can watch slapstick shots of guys getting socked in the jaw and spinning around with silly looks on their faces The film also unintentionally seems to suggest that football was a lot nobler before the rules and regulations, when players like Dodge could win a game by punching, kicking or running with the ball hidden up his shirt.

Idon't think George wanted to send us home with the message that the only way to keep the game fun is to cheat, but that's the kind of movie Leatherheads turns out to be.

It can't even hit the goal straight.

But in sport, and in movies, it's all about star quality. And like George, Leatherheads is charming and pretty hard to dislike.

'Like George, Leatherheads is charming and pretty hard to dislike'

CAPTION(S):

FIGHT NIGHT: Jim Krasinski andGeorge Clooney square up; SCREEN MAGIC: Zellweger and Clooney share some delightful moments
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Article Type:Movie review
Date:Apr 11, 2008
Words:577
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