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THE AISLE SEAT - by Mike McGranaghan

"LEAP YEAR"


Do you think Amy Adams will choose fiancee Adam Scott or scruffy Irishman Matthew Goode? You're right!
 
Amy Adams is one of my favorite actresses working today, and Leap Year makes me worry for her. Whether appearing in edgy independent films like Sunshine Cleaning and Junebug or in more commercial fare such as Enchanted and the Night at the Museum sequel, Adams has always shown the ability to make the most out of whatever material she’s given. There is something about the way she completely inhabits her characters that wins us over. This time around, though, she’s being squeezed into an “America’s Sweetheart” kind of role – the kind that would have been played by Meg Ryan in the 80s, Julia Roberts and Sandra Bullock in the 90’s, and Reese Witherspoon or Renee Zellweger in more recent years. Is Adams up to it? Of course! She’s as adorable as she is talented. However, those talents deserve better than such a paint-by-numbers romantic comedy such as this.

You know the drill. Adams plays Anna, a young woman whose boyfriend Jeremy (Adam Scott) has still not proposed after four years of dating. Naturally, he is a douchy sort of guy with Ken-doll hair, because that’s how boyfriends are in these kinds of pictures. When he goes to Ireland for a medical conference, Anna decides to take advantage of an old Irish tradition stating that, on Leap Day, a woman can propose to a man. She tries to fly to Dublin, only to have her plane make an emergency landing. Various complications ensue and she ends up in the tiny Irish village of Dingle, where she hires Declan (Matthew Goode), the cash-strapped owner of a local pub/hotel/taxi service, to take her the rest of the way.

Anna and Declan don’t like each other and spend much time bickering. Do you know where this is going yet? Leap Year finds all the predictable ways for these feuding strangers to be forced into closeness: they fall in the mud together, they have to share a bed, some kindly B&B owners force them to kiss, etc. (By the way – those last two scenarios were done as recently as The Proposal; they were old then and they’re even older now.)

Aside from the general romcom clichés, Leap Year also adheres to all the clichés of the Irish romances Hollywood like to throw at us every few years (P.S. I Love You and the rightfully forgotten Janeane Garafalo comedy The Matchmaker come to mind.) You get that scene where cows block the road, preventing Anna and Declan from passing in their car. And all the Dingle locals sit around in pubs acting eccentric all day long…because what are the Irish if not a bunch of loopy drunks, right?

It’s utterly depressing how paint-by-numbers this movie is. Within the first five minutes of the picture, you know every single beat it’s going to hit during its 100-minute running time, and you are never wrong. If it seems stale to us, how could it have not seemed stale to those who made it? Didn’t Adams and Goode – two fine actors – read this script and see all the clichés coming, just as we do? What’s the incentive for appearing in a formulaic movie like this? Cash? A paid vacation to Ireland?

Actually, the stars are the only thing that keep the movie from being truly awful. Adams and Goode both exude a lot of likeability and charisma. Even though the material is lame, they approach it gamely. I was won over by their sincerity and their chemistry, while at the same time wishing those things had been applied to a more ambitious story. How about one in which the woman goes on the journey with the scruffy guy, only to discover that she really does love her fiancée and wants to be with him? Now that movie I’d like to see!

Leap Year is harmless and inoffensive, but also annoyingly routine. You’ve seen this movie before dozens of times under dozens of different titles. What’s the point in seeing it again under this title?

( out of four)


Leap Year is rated PG for sensuality and language. The running time is 1 hour and 40 minutes.

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