By Carl Kozlowski
January 11, 2010
In the new romantic comedy Leap Year, an Irish rogue named Declan is hired by an uptight American woman named Anna to drive her from the Irish coast to Dublin, in the hopes she can meet her long-time boyfriend there on a business trip and propose to him. Her inspiration comes from an old Irish tradition that on each leap day, women are allowed to turn the tables on tradition and ask their men to marry them.
So much for the inspiration: their transportation comes in the form of a tiny, old and beat-up Renault. While Anna initially scoffs at the car, Declan defends it as reliable and guarantees her that it will get her where she needs to go. That same description can apply to the overall movie as well, as Leap Year appears to be an old, shopworn collection of parts from decades' worth of other movies, and yet proves surprisingly sturdy, reliable and well worth taking for a ride.
Leap Year leaps right into well-worn rom-com territory, complete with stereotypical characters, almost from the beginning. Anna (played by Amy Adams, who's in danger of being trapped by one cute role after another) is a fussbudget apartment “stager” whose career involves filling apartments with furniture to give prospective renters and buyers a sense of what they look like when lived in. She's dating a constantly-busy cardiologist (Adam Scott, a smarmy pretty-boy), who dashes off to a conference in Ireland right after misleading Anna into thinking they were about to get engaged.
Anna tries to jet off after her man in order to propose to him in Ireland on Leap Day, but bad weather forces her to land in Wales. One complication after another ensues, resulting in her hiring small-town bartender Declan (Matthew Goode) to assist her on her journey. The rugged country boy and stuffy city girl hate each other from the get-go, but in no-surprise fashion, they soon fall for each other.
That much is shown in the incessant TV commercials for this film, which offers up way too much plot. But there are details throughout—ranging from the quality performances to unexpectedly nuanced ending—that makes the film rise above its limitations.
In Leap Year, the fun is simply rooted in an old-fashioned good time. The romance is sweet, the cliched situations are staged with enough verve to seem newly fresh, and the stars' chemistry is palpably appealing. Leap also offers a non-stop tableau of Irish scenery bathed in the stunning glow of terrific cinematography, making viewers wish they could go along for the ride.
Many critics are dismissing Leap Year for the fact it contains so many time-worn plot points, but as with Declan's Renault, sometimes it's fun to turn your worries off and enjoy the ride. Leap Year may not do much that's outright original, but it's willing to go the extra mile in making it fun.