It’s to be expected, really. As Amy Adams climbs the Hollywood ladder, and slots alongside dramas and prestige projects the sort of inevitable romantic comedy slop that studios believe women want to see, she’s going to be required to tread water in a few stinkers. Not every film that’s a studio “giveback” can be as enchanting and engaging as Enchanted, which actually had a premise, characters and smartly presented, believable conflict, within the confines of its world of heightened absurdity.
Yes, some movies are going to be like Leap Year, an undercooked confection which can most charitably be described as a moment-in-time measuring stick for how many box office dollars Adams can wring out of her burgeoning fanbase without alienating them into tuning out and ignoring her future choices. By attaching the “Sadie Hawkins” conceit to a mock Irish tradition — in which women are “allowed” to propose to dawdling boyfriends once every four years, on the Leap Day of February 29 — the movie at least becomes a bit of a travelogue, in the visual sense. There’s precious little else to recommend it, however.
Adams stars as Anna, a successful Bostonite property “stager” who is happy but feels a bit restless in her four-year relationship with surgeon boyfriend Jeremy (Adam Scott). They’re moving in together into an exclusive apartment community, but their anniversary passes without a marriage proposal, much to her consternation. When Jeremy’s work pulls him away to Ireland for a conference, Anna decides to traipse after him to get down on one knee herself, and pop the question. Waylaid by inconsiderate weather, however, Anna finds her airplane diverted from Dublin to a smaller burgh, where she must enlist the assistance of surly but handsome innkeeper/bartender Declan (Matthew Goode) to help get her to the big city. Naturally, romantic complications and second-guessing ensue.
Directed by Anand Tucker (Hilary and Jackie, Shopgirl), Leap Year is a film with warm, soft, rounded edges on all sides, designed to rake in modest eight-figure returns from undemanding audiences who just want to see a couple good-looking kids get together. The script, credited to Deborah Kaplan and Harry Elfont, endeavors to whip up some romantic chemistry by having Declan peg Anna as snooty and she regard him as provincial, but Bringing Up Baby or even Moonlighting this most assuredly isn’t. The quips, while delivered with zest, simply aren’t up to snuff. So what we have are two people bickering at one another through rain and mud while, given largely the absence of other people their own age, they fall for another. Modest points are credited for an attempt at a modulated ending that doesn’t favor grand-sweep romanticism over any degree of sensibleness… but only modest points.
Mostly, though, this is all just a big shrug. Goode gets to add another accent to his grabbag. And Adams again displays an uncanny skill with small gestures; she knows how to convey inner uncertainty and subtle shifts in mood that many screenwriters needlessly labor over and overwrite. Unfortunately, the considerable charms of her company can’t sustain Leap Year, which, despite its name, putters along like any other normal, workaday cinematic offering, not a quadrennial breath of fresh air. (Universal, PG, 100 minutes)