A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that older tweens and teens may be drawn to this 1920s-set romantic comedy by stars George Clooney, Renee Zellweger, and John Krasinski (one of the stars of The Office). It's a fun, fairly tame screwball movie, but it's worth noting that it's set in a time when women were treated as if they weren't equal to men and kids were put to work like adults (and acted like them, too). Also in the name of period accuracy, characters smoke, drink, and swear ("s--t" is the strongest word used). It's all treated with a light touch -- maybe almost too much so; it's frothy and fun, but there's not as much of a bite as it first promises.
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What's the story?
If there was ever a doubt that George Clooney is an actor straight out of the Cary Grant playbook, LEATHERHEADS banishes it forever. As Dodge Connolly, a pro footballer back in the day when the game played second banana to its more refined, civilized collegiate counterpart, Clooney (who also directed) is winning. When his scrappy, beloved team, the Duluth Bulldogs, is disbanded, its members scattered to the mines and the fields, Dodge hatches a plan to save the league by recruiting war hero/college football legend Carter Rutherford (John Krasinski). His plan is a success: The fans descend in droves. But ace reporter Lexie Littleton (Renee Zellweger) is out to prove Rutherford a fraud, and pro football's ascent may prove its undoing, after all. That leaves Dodge -- who's falling in love with the fiery Lexie, whom Carter fancies, too -- in a pickle. What's a guy to do?
Is it any good?
Krasinski, whom fans probably know best as The Office's sardonic Jim, steps into Carter's cleats with ease. Who knew he could hold his own with the impossibly debonair Clooney (who, even when he's rumpled, still looks suave)?. Zellweger pursues success with a panther-like zeal and ably trades barbs with Clooney, and they do have chemistry, though she's no Nora to his Nick.
Clearly, Leatherheads is a fun way to pass the time. The art direction is fantastic, it makes football history compelling, and it brings up interesting, still-relevant points about how the press shapes public figures and how those public figures allow half-truths to go uncorrected. And kudos to Randy Newman for the lively soundtrack. But somewhere along the way, you get a sense of promise unfulfilled. A small twist in the end that saves the day feels rushed, and the witty banter, while engaging, isn't really all that clever. Though you expect the movie to wrap up nicely, as movies of this genre do, it becomes clear that Leatherheads is more of an homage than a true original.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how Carter's image was shaped. How does Lexie -- and by extension, the media -- change it? Or doesn't she? Who manipulates whom? Can you think of any other press-public figure relationships in the movie that seem distorted? Families can also discuss how football is treated in the movie. Why was college ball so revered but pro football not? Did "classing up" the game ruin it? Last but not least, how does this film seem different from prototypical Hollywood comedies/romantic comedies? How is it similar to them?