With Amy Adams, Matthew Goode. Rated PG for sensuality and language. 97 minutes.
LEAP YEAR will provide a good way for moviegoers to get a read on the critics they follow. The ones who heap abuse upon it are really saying how much they hate romantic comedies. Although it is lightweight, derivative fluff, it is no worse than that. Compared to the worst romantic comedy of 2009 – the Sandra Bullock disaster “All About Steve” – “Leap Year” is frequently amusing and even charming.
The premise owes a great deal to 1945 British film “I Know Where I’m Going!” about a woman who gets stranded in a small Scottish town on her way to her intended and finds true love instead. Here the woman is Anna (Amy Adams) who plans her life out in great detail and is surprised when her pompous boyfriend Jeremy (Adam Scott) fails to propose. He’s off to a medical conference in Ireland and she decides to take an advantage of an obscure Irish custom where women may propose on Leap Year Day.
Her plans go awry when a storm forces a landing in Wales. She has to make her way to Dublin by boat, car, bus, and on foot. Early in her adventures she meets up with Declan (Matthew Goode) a pub owner who is going to drive her there. The sparks fly and while they are protesting how much they dislike each other, we know there’s only one way for this to end.
The story is schematic and filled with clichés. The Irish pubs are filled with comical drunks, an older married couple are adorably still in love after 45 years, and the tightly wound American woman steps in cow flops, falls in the mud and throws up. Even the idea of city folks needing the freedom of the country to discover love is at least several centuries old, dating back to at least Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.”
No one will accuse “Leap Year” of originality. Besides rehashing a lot of elements of far better romantic comedies, it also utilizes the more recent – and unfortunate – development of making the story about the woman’s comeuppance. Classic romantic comedies worked because both characters needed something from the other. The only thing Declan needs from Anna, besides money to save his pub, is an excuse to go to Dublin where his ex-girlfriend lives. Neither of these subplots is particularly developed. On the other hand Anna is frequently shown up, culminating in her realizing how empty her life in the big city (Boston) has been.
Amy Adams and Matthew Goode pour on the charm, making the film likeable despite its flaws. Adams has been quietly amassing an impressive résumé – with recent films like “Enchanted,” “Sunshine Cleaning,” “Doubt” and “Julie & Julia” – where her characters have something beyond perky good looks. Matthew Goode has also done solid work and shows he can coast through material like this with a wry smile.
Enjoyable and forgettable, “Leap Year” will be in the DVD cutout bins long before the next real leap year arrives.•••
Daniel M. Kimmel is a veteran movie critic and author of a host of film-related books, the most recent being I’ll Have What She’s Having: Behind The Scenes Of The Great Romantic Comedies. He teaches film at Suffolk University and lives in Brookline.