“Leap Year” is, like most romcoms nowadays, driven by a gimmick that has little to do with the actual plot of the film.
It’s a standard diversion, but Hitchcockian in its own little dunderheaded way in that it’s the MacGuffin that the heroine is chasing.
In this case, it’s a marriage proposal. Anna (Amy Adams) is a right big-city girl who is trying to buy an apartment with her cardiologist boyfriend (Adam Scott), dreaming of an engagment ring so big it’ll make her puke, as Steve Martin once said.
Instead, her boyfriend gives her earrings, then jets off to Ireland for several days, one of which will be Leap Day, Feb. 29, which, Irish legend has it, is the one day a woman can propose to her man.
So Anna, romance and diamonds in her eyes, throws caution to the wind and hops a flight for Dublin to surprise her man.
Of course, chance throws her curveball after curveball after slider, and much of the rest of the film is a series of misadventures, starting with Anna’s flight diverted to Wales, which leads to a harrowing boat ride to the coast, which brings her to bartender/innskeeper Declan (Matthew Goode), a handsome but rather brusque chap.
Declan is also his small town’s taxi service, and Anna, put off by Declan’s simple single-man life, reluctantly pays him to drive her to Dublin (which he is less than eager to do himself).
There’s room for a lot of marvelous scenery, but director Anand Tucker doesn’t really do enough to feature it (with the exception of a few shots here and there). So as Anna wanders the Irish countryside we get a lot of spectacular shots of the pavement.
Amy Adams, is, as ever, luminescent, and Goode is likably rough as a romantic foil, but the direction is sluggish, and the execution of the gags are elementary and half-hearted, with a setup that tries to be sneaky (hint: anytime an old car is left unmanned on a steep hill and someone kicks, pokes, or leans on the front bumper, you can bet the car will start rolling).
I wanted to like this film, but really there was little of interest here. Anna’s personality flaws were played down, dragging down the “lesson” part of the narrative, and most of the supporting cast is wasted (especially John Lithgow, who gets only one brief bar scene before disappearing), and Scott, who could be devilishly unlikable, is not played as much a cad as his role usually designates. There’s even a tease of him being a jerk that leads nowhere.
Don’t get me wrong: I don’t mind a bit of tinkering to genre conventions, especially the exhausted romantic comedy ones. But it’s a bit of a waste of star power to take out the more important aspects of a genre and not replace it with something that’s, you know, at least interesting.
But as some people I spoke with afterwards mentioned, at least Kate Hudson wasn’t in it.