Film and Plot Synopsis
In 1925, professional football was not the glamorous money making sport that it is today. It is was a play by the seat of your pants endeavor filled with conmen and the unemployed. Jimmy “Dodge” Connelly is one of those conmen who happens to be the captain of the nearly broke Duluth Bulldogs. With the team nearing collapse, Dodge comes up with a plan to sign war hero and gifted college football player, Carter “the Bullet” Rutherford, to the Bulldogs to increase attendance. However, Carter has skeletons in his closet that reporter Lexie Littleton is desperate to bring into the open. Soon, Lexie finds her professional ethics being tested when she becomes to center of a love triangle between Carter and Dodge who find themselves competing against each other both on and off the field.
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‘Leatherheads’ Movie Summary
Meanwhile, the Chicago Tribune newspaper is determined to find proof that Carter’s war heroics are exaggerated after a witness, Mack Steiner (Max Casella), comes forward to dispute them. The paper sends reporter Lexie Littleton (Renée Zellweger) to uncover the truth. In a short time, Lexie becomes the object of the affections of both Dodge and Carter. One night during a date with Lexie, Carter confesses that the legendary story of the surrender of an entire German platoon to him was a lucky accident. Carter describes the incident as more foolish on his part, not heroic. Carter soon discovers Lexie’s true purpose and is hurt. He is further devasted to find out that Dodge and Lexie have feelings for each other and even shared a kiss. Dodge and Carter engage in a gentleman-like fist fight which angers Lexie, who rejects both men for a period of time. Carter’s manager, C.C. (Jonathan Pryce), threatens Lexie with a lawsuit if she publishes the story. The threat fails and Lexie decides to publish the story.
Once published, the story sparks a firestorm of accusations and reprimands. Carter leaves the Bulldogs and joins a new team for more money. C.C. bribes Mack Steiner to change his account of the events. Soon, Lexie’s job is a stake. The story’s attention causes Congress to appoint a new commissioner for the league. The new commissioner wants to clean up the league and take away its improvisational antics. He is also tasked with cleaning up the Carter controversy.
A meeting is called with Carter, C.C., Lexie and the new commissioner. The commissioner pressures Lexie to print a retraction. Dodge concocts a ruse to help Lexie out. He interrupts the private meeting at the commissioner’s office and implies that he met some of Carter’s fellow platoon mates the night before while drinking at a speakeasy. Dodge tells the group that they want to stop by to say hi and congratulate Carter on his heroic actions. The men are actually Bulldog players in borrowed Army uniforms. Feeling that he is about to be revealed, Carter confesses the truth in front of the commissioner. The commissioner rescinds his demand to have Lexie print a retraction. Carter is ordered to say he got too much credit for his war actions and to pay a large portion of his salary to the American Legion. The commissioner also bans C.C. from football as well. The commissioner also focuses on Dodge and warns him that if he pulls any tricks to win the next game, he will be banned from the league.
Dodge decides to play in one last game for the Bulldogs. The game is against Carter’s new team, Chicago. For the two men, the game is personal with their rivalry for Lexie’s affections bleeding into the play on the field. The game goes poorly for Dodge who is hampered not only by the commissioner’s edict as to no trick plays, but by the muddy field conditions as well. In the middle of the game, Dodge decides that football should be played without rules and reverts to his old style of playing.
During one play, Lexie notices that after a brawl on the muddy field that Dodge is missing. With most of the players’ uniforms and faces covered in mud, no one can tell who is who. A deep pass is thrown down the field by the Bulldogs and it appears to be intercepted by Chicago. However, when the mud is removed from the receiver, it is revealed that Dodge was the person who caught the ball, scoring a last-minute touchdown. Dodge pretended to be one of the Chicago defenders to get open. As a result, the Bulldogs win the game.
After the game, Carter sadly reminds Dodge that he is finished playing football due to the commissioner’s ban on trick plays. Carter also informs Dodge that he is going to tell the newspapers the real story about his “capture” of the German soldiers. Dodge tells Carter that America needs heroes, even if they are fabricated. Dodge also tells Carter that despite his desire to come clean, the true story will not be told. Dodge and Carter part on good terms having settled their ways.
After the game, Lexie meets up with Dodge. The couple ride off together into the sunset on Dodge’s motorbike. They discuss the various possibilities of their future, including bankruptcy, scandals, and jail time. During the end credits, pictures show Dodge and Lexie getting married, Carter donating $10,000 to the United States military, and C.C. with his new clients Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig.
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