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Amy Adams as Anna, and Matthew Goode as Declan, trek across the Irish countryside in Leap Year. (Photo Credit: Jonathan Hession/Copyright: © 2009 Universal Studios. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.)
Amy Adams as Anna, and Matthew Goode as Declan, trek across the Irish countryside in Leap Year. (Photo Credit: Jonathan Hession/Copyright: © 2009 Universal Studios. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.)

Actors' charm can't save this rom-com from a clichéd script Add to ...

  • Country USA
  • Language English

Leap Year

  • Directed by Anan Tucker
  • Written by Harry Elfont and Deborah Kaplan
  • Starring Amy Adamsand Matthew Goode
  • Classification: PG

Leap Year is the second romantic comedy in a month, following the Hugh Grant-Sarah Jessica Parker movie, Did You Hear About the Morgans? , which proves the most charming of actors can be left flailing in the face of a feeble script and direction.

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In both films, there are unnervingly long silences after the intended jokes where, you imagine, the screenwriters must have penciled in some down time for the rollicking laughs they expected.

Leap Year stars the reliably endearing Amy Adams ( Julie and Julia, Enchanted ) as Boston native Anna, a professional real-estate "stager" who fluffs and prepares luxurious homes for potential buyers. She's moving into her dream condo with her blow-dried BlackBerry-addicted cardiologist boyfriend (Adam Scott), but after four years, he hasn't popped the question.

Seasoned chick-flick fans will instantly recognize Anna as a standard postfeminist Hollywood type: the romantically-starved, overcontrolling young professional woman (substitute Jennifer Lopez, Renée Zellweger or Katherine Heigl) who's adorable, supercompetent and a bit stuck-up. What she needs to be taught is a lesson in romantic humility by the kind of boor she thinks she doesn't like.

On the verge of moving into the condo of her dreams, Anna mistakenly believes her beau is about to propose. When he heads off to Ireland for a conference instead, she decides to follow him, following a folk tradition that says women can propose to men once every four years on Feb. 29. Bad weather leaves her stranded in a town in Dingle, in the southwest of Ireland, where she hires a scruffily handsome, surly pub owner, Declan (Matthew Goode) to escort her to Dublin to meet her future husband.

Essentially, Leap Year is the umpteenth variation on Frank Capra's 1934 classic, It Happened One Night , in which the ill-matched couple is thrown together on a road trip, where, amidst a series of misadventures, their initial antagonism gives way to romance. The predictable comic formula is, in a sense, part of what the audience contracts. Of course, Anna must fall on her behind in mud and step in cow dung and share a small room with Declan for the night. What the contract doesn't include is that the execution should be so clumsily obvious, that every moment should be telegraphed before and after it happens.

But then, director Tucker and screenwriters Harry Elfont and Deborah Kaplan ( Made of Honor, Josie and the Pussycats ) have such a fondness for the trite they can make even the beautiful hills and stone-wall fenced fields of Kerry seem flat as the pages in a coffee-table book. Scenes are filled with flat-capped Irish locals who dispute, fight and spend their lives in pubs, holding forth on antiquated superstitions.

At least Adams and Goode are always watchable, even when you occasionally feel embarrassed for them. Goode ( A Single Man ) suggests a dreamy young Jeremy Irons (he played the same role in the movie version of Brideshead Revisited ). He growls, and shows his contempt for Anna's fancy American ways by rolling his eyes and eating with his mouth open, but his character's fundamental vulnerability is always discernible.

Adams harrumphs, pouts and tosses her hair while tottering around the luminous southwest of Ireland in bum-hugging skirts and stiletto heels. (If there's one thing you imagine super-competent young professional women would understand, it's how to dress for travel.)

Though she always carries a childlike innocence that goes with her snub-nosed, girlish features, Adams is a real actress, and there are flashes of her talent here, moments when she shows her mercurial ability to change from despair to exuberance in a heartbeat. Here, she seems to be working at about 2 per cent capacity, but her performance is still the best 80 per cent of the picture.

Follow on Twitter: @liamlacey

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