Average Joes don’t want to know from Leatherheads reviews — Thursday’s tracking suggests that George Clooney‘s period football comedy will do about $20 million this weekend — but if they did they’d be sullen. The Rotten Tomatoes creme de la creme has given it a lousy 33% positive and the non-elite has passed along a dispiriting 53% positive.
That said, it’s only fair to acknowledge that Leatherheads has a guy-buried-in- mud gag in the final act that’s pretty good. Even though I’ll bet Clooney stole it from a similar bit in Henry Hathaway‘s North to Alaska. During a big slapstick street fight at the end, Ernie Kovacs, playing a card-shark villain, gets thrown into a pond of quicksand-like mud and is half-submerged. Then a big wooden barrel rolls on top of him and buries him completely. Not that there’s anything wrong with theft. The best artists do it.
Like I said on 3.31, a comedy “without a serious foundation can feel too much like a jape, and so the mood humor in Leatherheads has a kind of ceiling. You want to give yourself over to it, but you can’t. The movie won’t let you. Because it only wants to make you feel good and spritzy, after a while it almost makes you feel a little bit bad. Even though it’s mostly ‘likable.’ A curious effect.”