Leatherheads [Blu-ray]
Blu-ray ALL - America - Universal Pictures
Review written by and copyright: Pat Pilon (5th November 2008).
The Film

George Clooney really floored me with his previous directorial effort, 'Good Night, and Good Luck'. It was a stunning piece of celluloid that spoke volumes about both the period of the events portrayed, and the events of the time it was released. It was brilliant. When the previews for 'Leatherheads' came out, I was a bit stunned, as it didn’t seem up to the same level as 'Good Night, and Good Luck'. It was an odd choice for Mr. Clooney. Thankfully, he brings the lame level of wit and class to a movie about professional football from the mid-1920s.

The movie follows a struggling team, lead by player/coach Dodge Connelly (Mr. Clooney), and the slick, fast-talking he does to get star college football player and war hero Carter Rutherford (John Krasinski) to play for his team, hoping to legitimise professional football. Thrown into the mix is journalist and aspiring assistant editor to a paper Lexie Littleton (Renée Zellwegger), hoping to debunk Rutherford's war hero status. This trio forms a strange love triangle, with just the right amount of passion and tension. Connelly doesn't mind Rutherford taking the spotlight when it comes to the field – indeed, he wants it – but when the journalist gives him an extra look, there's a problem.

The comedy comes from the situations stemming from this, but also from the dialogue, which is very fast and at times unexpected. There's also a nice bit of slapstick, though this is more in the first half of the movie. The second half has more of the love triangle aspect. The tension between the characters spring out some pretty funny moments. I wasn't expecting to laugh as much as I did, especially considering the low expectations the trailers gave. I certainly laughed more than I thought I would.

The director also shows a very steady hand with some potentially tough moments. The characters could easily veer into annoyance, and the tone heavy-handed, but Mr. Clooney knows how to handle things, stepping lightly when he has to, and laying it on when it's appropriate. Along with the music and editing, he creates a very good atmosphere. It's not the most authentic movie out there, but the mood is apt for the story being told.

From start to finish, this is pretty light, and isn't all that important when it comes right down to it. However, there are some unimportant movies that are tedious and forgettable, but there are also entertaining ones. 'Leatherheads' isn't meant to be remembered in the annals of moviemaking in the same way 'Good Night, and Good Luck' is meant to be, but, by golly, it'll surely be enjoyed while it's being watched.

Video

1.85:1 widescreen, using the VC-1 codec. The transfer is very nice from the start. There are many browns and reds, which come out very nicely. The contrast is very good and the black levels are pretty strong. However, the picture doesn't have a perfectly three-dimensional look. Backgrounds are often dark, separating the front and back of the shot. Skin tones are accurate, as well. The picture also has no defects. There are no print problems at all and compression couldn't be better. The picture also doesn't seem to be affect by any drastic noise reduction, making the transfer very nice.

Audio

As with all of Universal's releases, the main audio track is an English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track. Spanish and French DTS 5.1 dubs are also provided. As with other sports movie, and comedy movies, a lot of the sound is either dialogue or game sounds. The dialogue here is clear and centered. The games sound good enough with the cheering crowds filling up your room. However, much of the game footage is taken over by the score, which is loud, clear and full of life. The rears don't get used at all for the movie, though the score does find itself back there. The track is clear, and has no problem handling the material.
English (HoH), Spanish and French subtitles are also put on this disc.

Extras

The standard DVD had a nice election of featurettes, which are dropped from the disc as such, though bits of these may find themselves in the picture-in-picture commentary, though I'm not sure.

What remains the same is the audio commentary, by director George Clooney and actor/producer Grant Heslov. If you enjoyed the 'Good Night, and Good Luck' track, this one is more or less on the same level. They have a nice time talking about the movie, joking here and there. They seem to struggle more than a few times to say things, but they take their time, not wasting their breath on unnecessary talk. There's some really nice information about the locations and actors and tons of on-set stories. This is a good track.

The one High-Definition Exclusive Extra is a really good one. The U-Control option features picture-in-picture interviews and behind the scenes interviews, as well as some bits of visual commentary shot during the audio commentary recording. This is probably one of the best picture-in-picture commentaries I've heard. They go through the standard topics - actors, sets, locations, music and such - but because this is a period piece set in a time period people don't usually associate with, say, football, they explain the training and shooting of the football sequences, which is a lot more involving than it may seem. The locomotives are also shown and discussed. Composer Randy Newman has some great stories to tell, as well. It does have the more pointless EPK-type on-set interviews here and there throughout, but by and large, it's a well-rounded piece, and a must watch for.

The visual commentary is a bit less interesting, as it just shows the two particpants watching the movie, talking about it, but Mr. Clooney does make a view visual jokes, which makes sense if you watch the track, as opposed to just listening to it.

Overall

The Film: B Video: B Audio: B- Extras: B- Overall: B

 


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