Blu Ray Title: Leatherheads
Disk Release Date: September 16, 2008
Screen format: 1080P, 1.85:1 High Definition
First theatrical release: 4 April 2008
Previous releases on disk: Day and Date with Anamorphic Widescreen DVD
Director: George Clooney
Starring: George Clooney, Renee Zellweger, John Krasinski, Jonathan Pryce, Stephen Root
Sound Formats: English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, Spanish & French DTS 5.1
Length: 1 Hour 54 Minutes (BD-25)
Subtitles: English, Spanish, French
I recently described Leatherheads as “The football equivalent of ‘O Brother, Where Art Thou?’.” and that should be taken as a compliment. LH is George Clooney’s first attempt at directing a comedy and it’s as solid as anything else in his growing body of work. The guy just has a knack for making compelling films that have everyone involved with them raving about how tremendously fun and rewarding he is to work with (and for), which is doubly impressive coming from Mr. “Sexiest Man Alive” 26 times running.
If Leatherheads were simply a period comedy that would be one thing, but it goes far beyond that, incorporating editing and cinematography styles which cue along to the times along with smart and accurate dialogue and its use of highly realistic (for the time) Football tactics, It’s not all that refreshing a story but it is uniquely portrayed and genuinely funny.
Aging Football star Dodge Connelly (Clooney) wants nothing more from life than to keep playing football as long as he can do so professionally, in a time when Professional Sports is an oxymoron. Just when his team has teetered over the brink of bankruptcy Dodge convinces Princeton superstar Carter Rutherford (Krasinski) to join his team through negotiations with his wily agent, C.C. Frazier (Pryce), bringing great success and a much needed boost to the sport itself.
Dodge isn’t the only one working Carter over tho, hotshot reporter Lexie Littleton (Zellweger) is tracking down inconsistencies in Carter’s service record and she will use all of her feminine wiles to get the scoop while juggling another blossoming relationship with Dodge too. When the bombshell breaks the news will bring walls between all three of them and then the stakes rise even higher when Carter defects from Dodge’s team to their chief rivals. In the epic showdown between the two teams both men will re-evaluate what they stand for and just what it is that makes them happy.
One interesting behind the scenes factoid that this set doesn't delve into is the controversy over Clooney dropping his WGA level over a snit he had when the union refused to grant him a writing credit for the changes he made to the script originally penned by Duncan Brantley and famed sports writer Rick Reilly. Clooney's influences aren't hard to pick up on, especially the Coen brothers but he also delves deep into the OTHER films that certain scenes 'rip off' in his own words.
Clooney is also brilliant in the characters that he has making up the rest of this world, from Stephen Root's drunken reporter who can't write to previous actors from his past films (Plus a secret double role that I talk about below). I don't know what exactly the rules were about these kinds of things but I get the feeling that his changes were bigger than just minor scrubs on the script, seems like his hand was in every scene.
Sound Quality: 3.5/5
As a dialogue driven comedy set 90 years ago I wasn’t expecting Leatherheads to be too impressive sound wise and what I found was pretty solid but not extraordinary. Dialogue is crisp and clean and sound effects on field are dead on and well imaged, with occasional periods of well done fully enveloping sound fields most found in the segments which occur in the games held in the bigger venues. Bass is minimal but punchy when used for the ‘hits’ of player versus player, but keep in mind these guys aren’t wearing a whole lot of armor.
Musically, however, this film rocks. I’ve never been a big fan of Randy Newman’s Pixar scores but his period re-imaginings here are stellar and brilliant. From the opening use of “Hold That Tiger” I was hooked. The pieces are just so perfectly timed and integrated that it really made the film for me, and his cameo late in the film as a ragtime piano player sealed it.
Visual Quality: 3.5/5
While Leatherheads also takes many of its visual cues from 1920s era films it does not do so in a jarring way, for example there is no print damage or other artificial effects that would be normal from that period, and as expected for a new HD release the transfer is smooth and very detailed. I was particularly impressed with many of the close-ups of the actors faces as there was a lot of hammy expressiveness put into them and the shots were very sharp. Outside scenes were a bit greyer and less colorful, taking on a subdued desaturation that isn’t quite sepia but often approaches it. I did not notice any halos or ringing effects and grain structure was intact and looked natural and unobtrusive. Overall the visual look seemed just right for this movie, mostly sharp and detailed without being flashy.
Extra Features: 2/5
There are only three extra features and they overlap quite a bit. The first is a feature length commentary with Clooney and producer Grant Heslov. I don’t normally spend much time with commentaries but I listened to almost all of this one and it was interesting to see the challenges they faced and the goofiness Clooney brings to all he does yet he manages to be so well liked and respected and gets things done. There are also two U-Control tracks, one is a PiP with these two again going through the same thing. I especially liked watching the ‘Jumper’ scene, theres a secret to that segment that I would never have guessed! Finally there is a true ‘behind the scenes’ U-Control PiP that is very random and disjointed, almost like they shoveled a bunch of DVD extra content onto it. Hey I bet they actually did that!
Overall: 3.5/5 (not an average)
Leatherheads is a fun little movie that has smart writing and characters with moxie. It makes the BD leap with transfers that capture the essence of what the film is going for in as good a level of detail as the source will allow. While the bonuses are a little anemic, at least Clooney’s an interesting host on his two contributions and he brings viewers into a lot of the background stories that make for good tales. Definitely worthy of a rental!