We’re told by the “Leap Year” production notes that writers Deborah Kaplan and Harry Elfont are “well-known as Hollywood ‘script doctors.’ ” Yikes. Is there a doctor for the doctors in the house?
Mid-January and already there’s another romantic comedy that makes you weep for the genre. Honestly. After “P.S. I Love You,” “27 Dresses,” “Bride Wars” and “The Ugly Truth,” Beatrice and Benedick from “Much Ado About Nothing” are going to step right out of the first folio edition of Shakespeare’s play and go on a revenge killing spree.
“Leap Year” begins terribly, and I mean terribly, as its genial performers -- Amy Adams and Matthew Goode, but mainly Amy Adams -- plug away and do what they can to humanize material that puts the “ick” in “formulaic.” Scene after scene affords you the opportunity to practice your pained smile, the one Alvy Singer had on his face in the agent’s office in “Annie Hall.”
Again, we have a brittle Type A female protagonist (Adams, as Anna) who must be brought down to earth (i.e., humiliated in various artlessly staged slapsticky ways -- director Anand Tucker has no gift for physical comedy) and wised up by the man she’s clearly destined to find. He is an Irish pub owner (played by Goode) nursing a broken heart. And as he’s so much more sympathetic and charming than the man she’s with at the moment (Adam Scott, playing the cardiologist boyfriend), the movie’s conflict is nonexistent.
Four years into their relationship, Anna, a “stager” in charge of decorating condos to entice buyers, is still waiting for a proposal. She decides to chase down her beau, attending a cardiologists’ convention in Dublin, so she can follow the leap-year Irish tradition of proposing herself. Owing to crummy weather and various, labored obstacles thrown in her narrative path, she’s waylaid in Dingle, where she condescends to the locals and hires Goode’s Declan to drive her to Dublin. The trip, with its various contrivances, takes a couple of days. They hate each other at first. Then they don’t. And there you have it: another rom-com without much rom or com.
I’d like to propose a ban on the sentence construction “What part of (insert phrase here) do you not understand?” I’ve had it with that phrase. Actually, I never liked it; its inherent meanness always outstripped its alleged comic value.
I’d also like to propose to you, the potential viewer of “Leap Year,” that you see the 1945 classic “I Know Where I’m Going!” sometime soon. Just as an antidote. It’s great, and it’s one of the many blueprints the “Leap Year” writers may have followed, however fumblingly.
“Leap Year” simply proves what we guessed going in: that Adams -- who has the instincts not to overplay her character’s robotic snippiness -- can redeem almost anything.
Also, the scenery’s nice. But once you’ve said the scenery’s nice, you’re no longer talking about a movie worth talking about.