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Jan082010

LEAP YEAR has more clichés than most parodies

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I want you to write down all of the situations, settings, shots, and lines from the hundreds of romantic comedies you've seen or heard of--all the glances, all of the broken hearts, all of the newfound love, all of the marriage scenes, everything, all of it. Write them all down on little note cards and put them into a garbage bag (there should be too many for a hat). Done that? Good. Okay, now pick an attractive actress, two attractive actors, and a setting. Finally, grab about 30 of those cards and lay them out on the table. If the actors you picked were Amy Adams, Matthew Goode, and a well-groomed Adam Scott, congratulations, you've just written Leap Year.

Scene-for-scene, there are more clichés in Leap Year than most professional parodies and satires. It makes Scary Movie look original. Here's an overview: Anna (Amy Adams), a rich city girl, is always in control of the situation. She decides to travel to Dublin, Ireland (an exotic romantic location) to propose to her boyfriend (Adam Scott), the initial love interest who we aren't supposed to like. He's a surgeon who seems to love inflamed aortas on more than he does Anna. 

Now comes the South Park twist: Anna, the girl who is always in control, hits unexpected turbulence and her plane lands in rural Ireland, days away from Dublin. This forces her to go on an unplanned and uncalculated road trip to get there. Anna is about to find out that life isn't something you can plan.

Declan (Matthew Goode) is a down-on-his-luck bar owner who offers to drive Anna to Dublin. He lives life in the moment, thinks Anna is a prude, and pokes fun at her Louis Vuitton luggage bag. The two contend to hate each other, but must spend more and more time together, thus causing them to fall madly in love. Then we get to Dublin and Anna is forced to make a choice: marry the man she planned on marrying or take a chance on the man she just met.

Along the way, we are treated to a bar brawl, lots of sudden rain storms, abundant scenes of falling in the mud, a "we have to pretend we're married and sleep in one room" situation, a forced public kiss, a silhouetted kiss at sunset on top of a mountain, a silhouetted kiss on a moonlit lake, vomiting at a romantic time, a marriage interrupted exactly during the vows, and an expensive pair of shoes sullied by cow dung, among other things. If you've seen the trailer, you've already seen most of these moments. Few surprises await. 

Still, I would be lying to say there aren't a couple of unique points of interest. Amy Adams isn't believable as a prude (she's too damn adorable), but she and Matthew Goode do share a fun onscreen chemistry. Their awkward first kiss is particularly convincing and there is a running line about a 'fire' that pays off well in the end. I also enjoy seeing John Lithgow and Kaitlin Olson, however brief their appearances are. Many will recognize Olson from the FX channel's It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia.

I don't mind romance and comedy. In creative films like Love Actually and 500 Days of Summer (my favorite film of '09), they prove a potent and powerful combination. But Leap Year isn't creative. It is merely a composite of successful scenes from other, better romantic comedies. Coming from Anand Tucker, the director behind the great romantic comedy, Shopgirl, this is disappointing. 

I didn't despise Leap Year. It tolerably performs the tired situations its plot demands. But I can't recommend anyone pay to see a film that merely retreads the past without an ounce of reinterpretation and original thought. If films like Leap Year only came around once every four, maybe we'd start to hold our romantic comedy to a higher standard.

Trailer & Poster

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