Mark Reviews Movies

LEAP YEAR (2010)

1 ½ Stars (out of 4)

Director: Anand Tucker

Cast: Amy Adams, Matthew Goode, Adam Scott, John Lithgow

MPAA Rating: PG (for sensuality and language)

Running Time: 1:37

Release Date: 1/8/10


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Review by Mark Dujsik | January 7, 2010

There is apparently no reason anymore to hide the contrivances and formula requirements for a romantic comedy. Leap Year shows, once again, it's easier to just let them hang out there for all to see, because either audiences, filmmakers, or both don't care enough anymore to call them out.

Seemingly assembled from a list, Leap Year demands little more in analyzing it than another one.

We need a female lead character, who's a professional with a few personality quirks to show that she's, you know, a real person. Check. Amy Adams plays Anna, a successful stager for realtors (she makes spaces look their best for prospective buyers) who's also a stickler for schedules and other such obsessive qualities.

In spite of her professional accomplishment, she has to want to get married. Check. Anna's been dating Jeremy (Adam Scott) for four years, is about to get a high-class apartment with him, and is all aflutter at the idea that he might have bought an engagement ring.

Boyfriend must be a pragmatic douche. Check. In addition to the fact that he's always on his cell phone, Jeremy buys Anna earrings, runs off during dinner to go to a conference in Dublin, and later has more concern over his electronic devices than anything else. This techno-mania is displayed after Anna takes a previously discussed metaphor about what someone would take with them if a fire broke out in the person's home to a more literal plane. That metaphor-to-reality test should probably be a checkmark, too, but we'll just leave it alone this time.

There got to be some kind of odd gimmick, just to set this apart as little as possible from other such fare. Check. Anna's dad (John Lithgow) randomly brings up the old Irish custom of women proposing to their beaus in Dublin on Leap Day. His voice later haunts her in her sleep, further adding to her embarrassment and our knowledge that, yes, this is the gimmick.

Girl meets boy she hates. Check. In Ireland, Anna comes across Declan (Matthew Goode), who agrees to take her to Dublin even though the two of them can't stand each other from the start (He needs the money to save his pub).

Boy used to be a romantic but had his heart broken and is now cynical but obviously wanting find love once again. Check. Declan had his heart broken years ago and is now overtly cynical about the idea of love and marriage even though that's only a cover for the fact that he's still a romantic at heart.

We have to have pratfalls. Check. Anna causes a black out of Declan's small village after destroying the room above the bar (and finding a picture of the girl who broke his heart). She tumbles down a muddy hill while trying to catch a train. Her shoe flies off her foot at a conveniently found wedding reception, hitting the bride smack in the forehead. After getting a bunch of cows out of the road, she discovers they leave piles by stepping into one. You get the idea, but let's not forget that this is Ireland. There are plenty of folks with all kinds of varying ideas about what constitutes good and bad luck, pass out drunk on the floor, and inadvertently force Anna and Declan to pretend they're married so they can stay at a traditionally run bed and breakfast.

Girl and mysterious boy hate each other but are meant for one another. Check. Of course, we have to delay this until the last reel, even if they have a passionate kiss, spend a night of pining in bed together, and give all kinds of hints to each other that there are feelings underneath.

Now, other romantic comedies have similarly followed this list but end up working in spite of themselves. This one is way too content to abide by the rules.

Also, Adams plays Anna as far too practical to believe for an instant that she would ever be reduced to a dreamy, idealistic, weepy buffoon over the idea of getting married. There is simply too much distance between the performance and what the character needs to do. The movie spends so much time setting Anna up as a compliment to Jeremy's similar focus in life that it doesn't make sense for her to be obsessing about marrying either him or Declan. Additionally, the way she ultimately strings Declan along for the ride well after his use as a driver disappears makes even less sense and just comes across as kind of cruel.

Goode shows a knack for physical comedy here, but his character's decision to stick with Anna after she annoys him so much, destroys his car, and finds perfectly suitable alternate transportation is completely transparent. It's not for the money anymore; it's just for the obligations of the script.

Leap Year also continues that tradition of poorly photographed comedies, which is emphasized by the locale. How does one make the beauty of Ireland look less appealing? Over-lighting, excessive and noticeable green screen work (a shot of the two at the top of an ancient castle is just downright ugly), and clichéd illumination tricks (the couple backlit by the moon in front of a lake and bright blue lighting shining through the windows to convey night) certainly help.

Copyright © 2010 by Mark Dujsik. All rights reserved.

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