April 4, 2008, - 2:13 pm

Weekend Box Office: Boring, Inaccurate Non-Football Football Flick; Charming Kids’ Adventure, Etc.

By Debbie Schlussel
I wasn’t particularly thrilled by any of the new releases at the box office, this weekend, but a kids’ movie seems to be the best of them. I did not review the Martin Scorsese Rolling Stones documentary, “Shine a Light,” because I am not a Stones fan and am tired of films glorifying aging stoner hacks. A guy who snorts up his father (Keith Richards snorted his father’s cremated ashes) doesn’t need my review. Also, below are a couple of movies, “Run, Fat Boy, Run,” and “Married Life,” which I was unable to review, last week.
* “Leatherheads“: If you’re a football fan, and you’re looking for a football movie, go rent “Brian’s Song.” This isn’t it. The movie is barely about football. In fact, contrary to the deceptive trailers and TV marketing of this film, there’s only one major scene showcasing any extended moves on the field. And that one’s amid muddy chaos, so you can’t tell the teams apart.

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What’s more, the movie–co-written by Sports Illustrated columnist Rick Reilly–isn’t even accurate. A major part of the story is the machinations of the agent of a star NFL football player in 1925. But, in those days, there were no agents in pro football. The NFL wasn’t popular, and playing in it was a mere side hobby of working class American men. Contrary to the movie’s portrayal, NFL players didn’t get endorsement deals or make major money. The emergence of sports agents in the NFL is largely a phenomenon of the late 1960s and early ’70s when the players union became a force, negotiated a collective bargaining agreement and certified “player agents.”
Then, there’s the NFL Commissioner, appointed by Congress in the movie. But Congress never appointed an NFL Commissioner. And while this movie takes place in the mid-1920s, there wasn’t an NFL Commissioner until 1941 (Elmer Layden). And he didn’t have the power, as the fictional commissioner does in this movie, to order a major Chicago newspaper to retract a story.
Since this Clooney-directed vehicle contained so many factual deceptions, what does that say about his other “work”? “Syriana,” anyone?
Rather than football, “Leatherheads” is really about romance and corny 1920s- or ’30s-style comedy. And the fare is very light and thin. I found the movie to be very boring and even fell asleep. It’s slow, and the plot is barely a plot at all.
The story: It’s 1925, and George Clooney plays an aging NFL player. The league struggles to survive and his Duluth, Minnesota team disbands. But he discovers a star Princeton football player who is also a war hero and very popular. He convinces the player–via his agent–to leave Princeton and join his team. At the time, college football is far more popular than pro football, which goes begging for fans. But an ambitious Chicago newspaper reporter (Rene Zellweger) is promised a promotion by her editor if she reports on the phony war hero story and takes the new star player down.
I thought the movie was silly and tired of it early on. But, like I said, it’s light. And there’s nothing objectionable about it. It’s just not a great movie. Just fair . . . and mostly dull. Oh, and again, historically inaccurate.
* “Nim’s Island“: This is a charming kid’s movie that–while not fantastic–was not bad. I liked the way it portrayed science and the study of it as an adventure and exciting. That’s well needed in today’s America, where science is seen as “nerdy” and unimportant, and we are well behind the other Western nations in that discipline.
Abigail Breslin is Nim, a young girl who lives with her scientist father alone on a secret, secluded island near Tuvalu in the South Pacific. Her father studies aquatic microbes and they live in a cool jungle-style house, sharing the island with friendly wildlife and a volcano. With self-generated power, I was wondering who their Internet Service Provider was–they have a very fast online connection.
While Nim’s father studies the water, she reads the adventures of her favorite swashbuckling explorer, Alex Rover, who fights off pirate Arabs in Arabia (PC groups are upset by this, which is a reason you should support this movie and take your kids to see it) and other cretins elsewhere. Little does Nim know, Alex is really Alexandra Rover (Jodie Foster)–a strange, neurotic, psychosomatic, cloistered author in San Francisco with agoraphobia and a million other phobias which prevent her from leaving her home for months. The explorer, “Alex” Rover, is just her alter ego and imaginary muse.
Nim’s father gets lost at sea, during one of his scientific expeditions to find new microbes. In the meantime, Alex–struggling to finish her latest adventure–e-mails Nim’s father for information on an article he wrote about the volcano. Nim responds, and with her father missing and upon getting an injury, gets Alex Rover to overcome her phobia and come to the island. But, as we see, Nim, is actually the true swashbuckling adventurer, not the fictional one she reads and fantasizes about.
The story is more exciting and charming than I’m telling it here. And the movie’s great–and not too scary–for kids. It wasn’t a GREAT movie. But it was good enough. And very entertaining. A kid’s adventure, slightly lite.
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* “The Ruins“: This movie was not “officially” screened for critics, and after seeing it, last night, I know why. Supposedly a horror/thriller flick, it was more hilarious than it was scary (thought it tries hard to gross you out–a man’s legs are cut off, lots of blood, etc.). The plot is preposterous and not at all believable. Four 20-somethings and a German guy (with a horridly fake accent that spanned the range of various points in Scandinavia to podunk Iowa) they meet while on vacation in Mexico, go to Mayan ruins and find themselves atop a pyramid. Soon they are being enticed by flesh-eating vines, whose flowers emultate human voices and cellphone rings.
One by one, as they try to survive, they are eaten by the plants, which grow inside them. This was like “Little Shop of Horrors” trying to be serious and get us to believe it’s real. Hilarious (though unintended). I kept waiting for a vine to shout, “Feed me, Seymour, Feed Me.” Entertaining enough for escapism and light amusement. But not a great horror flick by any stretch.
* “Run, Fat Boy, Run“: Directed by “Friends” star David Schwimmer, this movie was highly predictable, but funny and entertaining enough. An English loser leaves his beautiful bride–pregnant with his child–at the alter. Five years later, she’s about to marry an American man who’s rich, smart, better-looking, etc. But the loser realizes the mistake he made on his wedding day and wants her back. He decides to train for and run a marathon to prove his love and newfound maturity. Amusing.
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* “Married Life“: I enjoyed this psychological thriller set in the 1950s. A wealthy businessman (Chris Cooper) is tired of his wife because she only wants sex and isn’t into love and romance. He decides he wants a woman who will love and adore him, and he’s having an affair with that (younger) woman (Rachel McAdams). He wants to marry his mistress, but doesn’t want to hurt his wife, whom he loves. So, he plots to murder her. But Cooper’s friend–Pierce Brosnan–wants the mistress, too. And he gets in the way of it all. The intrigue and “Telltale Heart”-esque thoughts and suspense made this period piece timeless and enjoyable. Light and entertaining.

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6 Responses

Thanks for the reviews as always, Debbie.
I’m a guy, so someone needs to explain the George Clooney thing to me. Supposedly he’s supposed to be this great looking guy, but to me as a male he’s just very ordinary looking. Plus, I think he’s an awful actor. I just don’t get it, except for his holding up the liberal flag for Hollywood earns him points.
Clooney is one of those “automatic skips” for me. If Robin Williams, Susan Sarandon, Barbra Streisand, and Sean Penn among others are in a movie, I automatically skip it.
“A wealthy businessman (Chris Cooper) is tired of his wife because she only wants sex and isn’t into love and romance.”
Tired? Sounds like a dream wife for most guys.

Jeff_W on April 4, 2008 at 4:13 pm

Miss Schlussel:
Well, I’m a HUGE fan of Renee Zellweger, and was looking forward to seeing LEATHERHEADS, only because she’s in the cast.
But, gosh, gee whillikers, now I just don’t know.
What’s she like in the movie?
Remember, I’m a guy, and she’s a doll, so that dramatically affects my perspective.
For the most part, I find sports to be boring, unless I’m playing.
I love playing sandlot football, but being a mere spectator puts me to sleep.
All the contemporary formalized rules, regulations, and other sundry associated rigamarole has RUINED football (and all other sports)!
I just want to grab the ball and run and hit somebody.
I love the head on physical contact of – – – SPLATTTT!!!
Boy, oh boy, I sure miss the fun I had back in my younger, spryer days.
When you get old, you can’t find anybody else willing to play full contact tackle football.
Anyway, what’s the story on Renee Zellweger in this movie?
I’m so in love!
I also adore Jodie Foster, and it’s so disappointing to learn she’s declared herself an avowed lesbian.
By the way, I listened to you on the radio this morning.
I’m glad you alerted us to the broadcast.
Thank you.
John Robert Mallernee
Bard of Clan Henderson
Armed Forces Retirement Home
Washington, D.C. 20011-8400

writesong on April 4, 2008 at 5:30 pm

I assumed “Leatherheads” was based on Harold “Red” Grange, considered by some to be the best football player of all time. He attended the University of Illinois, and after his last college game in around 1924 he left school and signed with George Halas of the Chicago Bears. He did have an agent, whose name was C. C. Pyle. I think Grange signed for $100,000 at a time when most players made very little.

James Williams on April 4, 2008 at 11:04 pm

You’re obviously a football fan as I am. You, I, and every fan I know understand most football lore going back to the “Flying Wedge” and while we can probably be fooled by a few mistakes, an encyclopedia of them, many revealed in the trailer, ain’t gunna get us to watch some out of shape movie star pretend he can play. Like the westerns that show streets without any horse shit on them, this is a football movie without a football, at least that is what the trailer indicates.

Howard on April 5, 2008 at 1:03 pm

Debbie: I don’t know what it is about George Clooney movies (well, yeah, I do), but every damn time I partake of one (the latest being “Michael Tucker,” or whatever the hell the name of that mish-mash was — it sucked, big-time), I fall asleep. I don’t mean “doze off,” I fall asleep, soundly, and blissfully. The guy and his “acting” are the cure for insomnia! Anybody who’s not an illogical lib or a female with a Clooney fetish will fall asleep within a few minutes of beginning a Clooney film — works every time!
The sole exception (for me anyway) thus far has been “O Brother Where Art Thou?,” and quite likely the only reason is that the Coen brothers were involved. While it’s not my favorite of the brothers (“Fargo” gets that nod), it is at least relatively interesting, a fine take-off on “The Odyssey,” a good “period” piece, and has the great song “Man of Constant Sorrows” in it. Other than that, though, it’s ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ when it comes to a Clooney film. Sorry, George, but perhaps you might want to try another profession?

theendisnear on April 5, 2008 at 4:13 pm

Debbie,
Whereas I generally agree with you, I don’t agree with you on Leatherheads. As much as I can’t stand either of the 2 stars politics, it’s a very fun movie. Historically accurate, no……… but entertaining absolutely.
My wife liked it just as much as I did.
Sorry, I’ll probably buy it when it comes out on dvd.

OldTimeLifter on April 6, 2008 at 1:32 am

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