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Economy

'Leatherheads'

It's easy enough to see what George Clooney thinks he's doing in this '30s-style movie about '20s pro football, but you can't help wishing he'd do it a little quicker.

The story, about a bankrupt football team and the femme reporter whose big scoop could doom their big comeback, means to be a comedy of the sort in which Cary Grant and Rosalind Russell used to trade wisecracks. As director, Clooney gets the details right — deco settings, roaring trains, period autos, all in sepia. But while Clooney (as an aging ballplayer) and Renee Zellwegger (as the reporter) manage to get their mouths around the quips, the pacing's all wrong.

There are some nice fistfights, some cute byplay between the stars and a football game on a muddy field that looks like it must've been murder to film. Alas, the plot's big finish — something about an illegal play and comeuppance for a war hero (James Krasinski) who wasn't all that heroic — is muddy enough to be all but incoherent.

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