Mr. Movie

Clooney scores laughs in Leatherheads

Set in the 1920s, Leatherheads follows the antics of a mythical founder of modern-day football. Long on vision but short on cash, George Clooney’s Dodge Connelly grabs a World War I hero and makes him a star. The young man draws huge crowds and brings overdue popularity to the game.

Renee Zellweger is a prototype feminist reporter digging into the hero’s too-good-to-be-true story. A negative scoop means a new gig as an editor. Predictable football comedy and a triangle love story follow.

An Oscar and a Golden Globe say volumes about Clooney’s acting skill. Put him in a comedy, and Clooney has few equals. Zellweger has an Oscar and a Golden Globe, too, but isn’t in Clooney’s league. Though she’s more tolerable here than usual, Zellweger’s 1920s cliche accent and inability to understand comedy penalizes a film desperate to complete a pass.

Clooney also directs Leatherheads. While he’s not bad behind the camera, his previous directorial accolades are due more to performances from his cast and excellent screenwriting than skill. The uneven Leatherheads isn’t going to dispel Clooney’s perceived weakness as a storyteller.

Clooney the director gives Clooney the actor, Zellweger and TV’s The Office star John Krasinski plenty of room to play. Maybe too much room. In comedy, less is more. Clooney and crew don’t score a touchdown but they didn’t miss the critical game-winning field goal either.

Mr. Movie rating: 3 1/2 stars.

Rated PG-13 for mature themes. It opens today at the Columbia Mall 8 and at Fairchild Cinemas.

Nim’s Island

Abigail Breslin, the talented child actress from Little Miss Sunshine is Nim. She and her scientist dad live on an island paradise. He leaves her at home, sails off to do some mad scientist stuff and disappears.

Desperate, Nim reaches out to Alex Cross, a fictional adventurer from her favorite books. Nim thinks she’s e-mailing the real Alex. She doesn’t know or suspect that Alex is an agoraphobic writer.

Horrified to be outside, Jodie Foster’s Alex is driven to save the girl using her book’s imaginary hero played by Gerard Butler (300). Butler also plays Nim’s dad, who struggles to survive after having his boat nearly sunk by a hurricane. The kid sits in the middle of the story, fighting off tourists who have discovered Nim’s secret island.

The film’s charm comes from the energetic Breslin who shares her screen time with a waddling walrus, a loud lizard and a persnickety pelican. What little fun there is comes from Foster’s paranoia.

Four writers put this mess together. The plot plays like each wrote a piece without consulting the others. Crises pop up that go nowhere, time as a structure is ignored, and each actor is completely disconnected from the others like they’re all playing in different movies.

No one doubts that movies could use more young girls as role models and heroines. But if they’re going to be this bad, why bother?

Mr. Movie rating: 1 star.

Rated PG for some mature themes. It opens today at the Columbia Mall 8 and at Fairchild Cinemas.

Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter … and Spring

Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter … and Spring is a subtitled gem from Korea. A monastery floats on a remote lake. An old monk tends the place. Spring finds him mentoring a young boy. In the summer a woman enters their lives. Fall changes things forever. Winter is a disaster. The second spring is rebirth.

Lessons learned are slow and patient and done with little or no dialogue.

The most beautiful movies in the universe come from Asia. Patience seems to be the key. Where English-language directors work overtime to tie loose ends up in tidy little bows, Asian directors waxing philosophic tend to make gorgeous movies with stories that breathe. Writer/director Kim Ki-duk trusts your intelligence. He fills his film with thought-provoking images, not unnecessary language.

Mr. Movie rating: 5 stars.

Rated R for mature themes, sex. It plays tonight only at the Battelle Auditorium at 8 p.m.

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