Fumble, by George

Leatherheads," George Clooney's nostalgic comedy about the early, no-holds-barred days of pro football circa 1925, is meant to evoke the snappy romantic comedies of the '30s. The archetypes are in place: Renée Zellweger's ambitious gal reporter Lexie Littleton; Clooney's roguish football player/entrepreneur Dodge Connelly, who's scheming to resurrect his defunct team by recruiting Princeton's poster-boy war hero Carter Rutherford (John Krasinski) to pack the stands. Both men take a shine to Lexie, but she's got her own agenda: to expose Carter's battlefield heroics as a sham.

The last movie Clooney directed, "Good Night, and Good Luck," was an urgent tribute to journalistic integrity. Oddly, there isn't a shred of urgency about "Leatherheads." Nothing much is at stake: the romantic triangle is no contest from the get-go and Lexie's ambition, heavily built up in Duncan Brantley and Rick Reilly's script, is pretty much forgotten about. "Leatherheads" also wants us to mourn the passing of the anarchic, rough-and-tumble pro-football scene before it became a rule-bound, efficient business, but Clooney exhibits so little interest in football that he forgets to show us what was so good about the good old gridiron days. The great '30s comedies had edge, bite and relentless forward momentum. "Leatherheads" is laid-back, amiable and terminally tepid.

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