- Rated PG
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All photos © Universal Pictures
Reviewed by David Medsker
here is a story about Harry Knowles giving Elijah Wood a hard time for signing on to do “Flipper” (Knowles had seen the script, and knew it would tank, which it did), and Wood, who was 14 years old when he shot the movie, gave the most refreshing answer you could ask from an actor: “Hey, I got to play with dolphins for six months. What kid wouldn’t want to do that?” Moral of the story: it’s easy for us to criticize actors for their poor judgment when choosing scripts, but sometimes their decision to make a movie has absolutely nothing to do with the movie itself, but where the movie is being shot.
This would certainly explain Amy Adams’ decision to follow the commercial and critical success of “Julie & Julia,” “Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian” and “Doubt” with the rom-com “Leap Year”: they shot the movie on location in Ireland. Who wouldn’t want to work in Ireland for a couple months? Adams surely knows that this is not a great movie – or even an average one – but hey, for two months in Ireland, I’d probably do the movie, too.
Adams is Anna, a super-organized “stager” who’s impatiently waiting for her cardiologist boyfriend Jeremy (Adam Scott) to pop the question. Jeremy has to leave for a conference in Dublin, and when Anna’s deadbeat father (John Lithgow, who appears in one scene and may as well be named Basil Exposition) tells her about an old Irish tradition where it’s acceptable for a woman to propose to a man on Leap Day, Anna hatches a plan to surprise Jeremy at his conference and seal the deal herself. When inclement weather lands Anna in Dingle instead of Dublin, she enlists the help of a broke – and broken – innkeeper named Declan (Matthew Goode) to drive her to Dublin. Let the wacky hijinx begin.
The road movie premise can work within the parameters of a romantic comedy – “Stardust” and “The Sure Thing” both used it to great effect, and even Adams’ “Enchanted” is a road movie of sorts – but it doesn’t work here. At the very least, they needed one more day together, and the most crucial one at that: the grudging tolerance day between the ‘hate’ and ‘love’ phases of their relationship. Declan and Anna share a deep, passionate kiss at a point when they are clearly still in the ‘hate’ phase, and it doesn’t feel at all natural.
But what the movie really needs is more funny. There isn’t anything here you haven’t seen before; not even the supporting characters – hey look, the Irish country folk are superstitious drunks, narf! – make a lasting impression. Adam Scott comes really close to playing a decent guy for a change, but ultimately turns out to be a tool. And when a priest invites Anna and Declan to crash another couple’s wedding…check, please.
The Irish landscape is lovely to look at (if overcast), and while that may have been enough for Adams to make “Leap Year,” that is not enough reason for anyone to see it. Go catch up on the 2009 Oscar contenders instead.
Single-Disc Blu-Ray Review:
Those hoping for a generous serving of special features will be disappointed to discover that Universal’s Blu-ray release of “Leap Year” only includes a measly six minutes of deleted scenes. That’s it. No audio commentary. No making-of featurette. Not even a generic EPK where the cast and crew gush over how great their movie is. Talk about a lack of confidence.