People who subject themselves to romantic comedies (and I’d be one of them even if it weren’t my job) know to expect and accept a certain amount of formulism and a few standard contrivances when they step into the theater. But Leap Year is wholly unacceptable. It’s an appallingly bad movie, painfully dull and achingly false. There’s not a low enough expectation that you could set before viewing Leap Year that would allow you to avoid disappointment. If you go in expecting to have your bowels punctured with a rusty blade, you’ll still walk out wondering why they used a pitchfork.
I see a lot of bad romantic comedies, but I honestly can’t remember one from recent memory as bad as Leap Year (and I saw What Happens in Vegas). It’s as though the writers — Harry Elfont and Deborah Kaplan (Josie and the Pussycats, Surviving Christmas, Made of Honor [how the clown-rapin’ hell do these people continue to get screen writing gigs?]) — took chunks out of The Proposal and The Matchmaker, stripped them of every ounce of humor and heart, and regurgitated them back onto the screen with enough force to blast through the celluloid.
Watching Amy Adams in Leap Year — and she is an otherwise great actress, God bless her — you begin to actually appreciate actresses like Sandra Bullock or even Kate Hudson. There’s a certain art to playing the female lead in a romantic comedy — whether the romantic comedy is good or bad — and Adams doesn’t have it. She has no fucking clue what she’s doing in Leap Year, and it’s apparent from the opening frame. I don’t know what depths she plumbed that convinced her to even take this role, but Adams is elbow deep in the brown without a pair of surgical gloves to protect her.
If you’ve seen the trailer for Leap Year (don’t even bother), then you’ve seen everything in the movie except the other 86 minutes of dead space. Adams plays Anna (from Boston), who of course is a shrewish perfectionist, as all women must be in bad romantic comedies. She’s a stager (because ridiculous jobs are a must) who has been dating her cardiologist boyfriend, Jeremy (Adam Scott), for four years and still hasn’t been proposed to (cue the date where both are too involved with their iPhones/Blackberrys to have a conversation with one another). When Jeremy flies off to Dublin, Anna decides to follow him out there and propose to him on Leap Day (per Irish tradition which allows the woman to propose to a man every four years on Leap Day).
Naturally, she gets sidetracked by bad weather and ends up stranded in some rural one-bar town where the churlish bar owner (Matthew Goode) is also the only cab driver in the area. He also happens to be comely, and have the best name in the history of the planet: Declan. Despite the fact that they hate each other for no real reason besides the fact that it’s called for in the script, she’s desperate enough to hire him to drive her to Dublin and he’s strapped for cash, which he needs to save his bar. Cue the road trip, where the car winds up in a pond, a train is missed, and the two of them end up pretending to be married to stay in a bed and breakfast, where they are cajoled into kissing by the innkeepers (any of this sound familiar?).
Naturally, sparks fly (though they are invisible), complications arise, and it all leads back exactly where you expect it to lead back to, where one of the most painfully awkward big romantic speeches in the history of romantic comedies is delivered (“Will you make no plans with me?”). And if you want to know how it ends, just gander up at the header image.
I don’t have a clue why Adams — who hasn’t had any problem finding plum roles in the past — decided to slum it to make a romantic comedy, nor why she’d choose to do this one, of all the available high concept rom coms. I also can’t imagine any pitch for this movie that would’ve sold an actress of her stature on it (she has two Oscar nominations, for fuck’s sake), and even if it had, I don’t know why she wouldn’t have balked after seeing the script. I don’t know why John Lithgow signed on, either, but he’s only got one three-minute scene near the beginning of the film. Even at that point in the movie, however, I had wished he was the Trinity Killer at the beginning of his cycle. The quick deaths of the three leads would’ve saved the rest of us a lot of misery.
Dustin Rowles is the publisher of Pajiba. You can email him or leave a comment below.