This time of year, with the weather brutal and the remaining Oscar fare depressing, we could really use a decent romantic comedy. Unfortunately no one ever takes up that challenge, instead offering easy paycheck stuff like Bride Wars or this year's offering, Leap Year. It's at least not blatantly misogynistic or quite as ridiculous as others of its kind, but Leap Year commits what might be an even bigger offense toward audiences in need of an escape from January doldrums: it's horribly unfunny.
Not that it doesn't try-- Amy Adams waves her delicate hands about and gets dragged through both mud and cow poop in the name of making us like her hard-charging Boston girl Anna Brady, while Matthew Goode, as the surly Irish innkeeper helping her travel across his country thanks to a sidetracked plan, slaps on a scruffy beard and elevates the movie with his charms. But given that the movie so blatantly hews to the original It Happened One Night formula-- complete with drippy husband-to-be (Adam Scott, so much more fun when he's smarmy) waiting at the end-- it has to be said: these two are no Claudette Colbert and Clark Gable. And I'm not sure even those two could have saved this movie.
Harry Elfont and Deborah Kaplan's script certainly isn't a good place to start, with its constant reliance on forced squabbling between the mismatched lead and the ridiculous assumption that a woman can only propose to her boyfriend on Leap Day (once every four years!) When Anna hears about that tradition from her dad (John Lithgow, mysteriously present for only one scene) while her boyfriend is on a business trip in Ireland, she makes the first impulsive decision in her life and sets off to propose to him there. Of course there's bad weather, and of course the plan is diverted to Wales, and of course the fishing boat she somehow manages to pick her up drops her off on a beach in an isolated corner of Ireland, where the local barkeep Declan (Goode) is also the innkeeper and the town's only taxi driver.
Once Anna and Declan set off on their three-day misadventure toward Dublin, though, Anand Tucker's inept direction really takes over as the primary culprit. Every time the movie stumbles toward a half-decent joke, like those focused on the sloshed barflies or Declan and Anna's uncomfortable rooming together at a bed and breakfast, Tucker completely botches the comic timing. Tiny jokes are allowed to lay flat on the screen for agonizing seconds, while comedic sequences that deserve to be played out are begun and then quickly abandoned. It would be OK that we can predict every plot point-- and I mean every plot point, right down to the drunken kiss interrupted by vomiting-- if it were at all fun getting there. But even as Leap Year stumbles toward a very standard kind of sexual tension near the end, the lethal lack of humor keeps the audience from getting any pleasure out of it.
I won't even get into the fact that Anna is so dumb she whines when her Blackberry knocks out the power for the entire village, or that Declan is so mean to her that he literally doesn't smile until the last 10 minutes. The fact that these two are made for each other is so clearly expressed from the minute they share a frame that it's not worth arguing with the movie's flat-footed attempts to get us there. I just wish that, at some point before the actors stepped in to try to save their characters, someone had done the same for the movie itself.