The scenery’s spectacular in the otherwise pedestrian “Leap Year,” a romantic comedy about a Boston yuppie whose marital plans get waylaid during her impulsive jaunt to Ireland. Pic is pleasant enough overall, if also somewhat gratingly old-fashioned; this is the kind of movie in which an uppity, upper-crust woman requires rough-hewn working-class masculinity to take her down a peg or three. The box office draw of rising stars Amy Adams and Matthew Goode likely won’t be strong enough to have auds leaping at the chance to see Universal’s Jan. 8 release.
Anna (Adams) is a “stager” , temporarily decorating apartments and houses on the real-estate market , who’s dated workaholic cardiologist Jeremy (Adam Scott) for four years. They’re serious enough to try buying into a very tony, exclusive condo complex, but Jeremy has been frustratingly slow to pop the question.
When her latest hopes are dashed, Anna takes action: She’ll turn up unannounced at a Dublin medical conference he’s attending, then propose herself on Feb. 29. According to Irish superstition and her own Irish-American clan’s lore (a hammy John Lithgow briefly appears as Anna’s hapless dad), that’s the day, every four years, that lasses can ask for a lad’s hand. Charming tradition or act of desperation, Anna no longer cares , she wants that ring.
Unfortunately, a violent storm forces her plane’s diversion to Wales, where bad weather also cancels the usual passenger ferry options. Frantic about missing the lucky date, Anna hitches a ride on a fishing trawler. But the elements thwart that plan, too, leaving her stranded in a dinky coastal hamlet on the Emerald Isle’s “wrong” side.
When she meets Declan (Goode), proprietor of the area’s only inn, as well as its sole cabbie, it’s dislike at first sight , particularly once Anna accidentally wrecks her room, in the first of many labored slapstick interludes. But he’s strapped for cash, and can’t turn down her offer of 500 for the drive to Dublin.
Deborah Kaplan and Harry Elfont’s script is initially reminiscent of the Powell-Pressburger classic “I Know Where I’m Going!” , whose upwardly mobile bride-to-be gets waylaid by weather and romance in a humble Scottish village , then channels “It Happened One Night,” as a snippy, snobby, demanding heroine is forced to go on a road trip (and at one point pose as part of a married couple) with a rakish man’s-man.
But those movies were idiosyncratic and unpredictable, whereas you know throughout just where this one is headed. It’s refreshing when late twists briefly suggest the leads really won’t end up together, since nothing save romantic-comedy formula indicates they’re right for each other. Still, convention must be served.
Adams is surely one of the most appealing screen presences to emerge in recent years, but her warmth can do only so much to redeem the role’s condescending stereotype. Goode, who’s built an impressive dramatic resume (“A Single Man,” “Brideshead Revisited,” “Match Point”), reveals genuine comic spark here; still, the material is beneath both performers. Likewise director Anand Tucker (“Shopgirl,” “Hilary and Jackie”), who seldom descends to completely broad genre-alities but can’t rise above the pic’s overall contrivance either.
Nonetheless, for auds seeking a formulaic date pic, “Leap Year” might satisfactorily push the designated buttons. Certainly veteran d.p. Newton Thomas Sigel’s widescreen lensing will: Irish tourism can expect a serious uptick from the pic’s ravishing postcard imagery. Other tech aspects are polished.