In a weird sort of “time travel,” one can be whisked away into the New Year via film. Screening a film in December that’s not scheduled for release until January could lead you to assume that a studio believes it may have legs to stand on based on a celebrity's status and thinks they can screen a film far enough in advance that you wouldn’t suspect it to be one of the worst films of the new year. You’d be sorely mistaken.
Amy Adams is probably more recognizable by face than by name. But this is not keeping Universal Pictures from escorting the atrocious piece of filmmaking, Leap Year, headfirst into the wastelands of January-March releases. With her infectious attitude and bright red head of hair they also probably think that she can be thrust into a star vehicle and glide it to safety no matter how dismal the material.
While some found her side of last year’s Julie & Julia to be less than satisfying, Adams was still able to bring more to her character than probably most leading actresses having to hold their own in a battle for screen time against the legendary Meryl Streep’s portrayal of Julia Child. In Night at the Museum: Battle for the Smithsonian she was also able to escape more unscathed than anyone else and also made you wish that casting directors had made her the lead in the Amelia Earhart biopic.
Anand Tucker, in his sophomore big studio release, has gone from one of the better romantic comedies of past years, 2005’s underrated Shopgirl, to one of the worst. So much so that even the advertising gives away the entirety of the film. When you see Amy Adams standing in front of co-star Matthew Goode and the film’s tagline reads, “Anna planned to propose to her boyfriend on February 29th. This is not her boyfriend,” you would have to be the most ignorant film-goer to not know how this film will wrap up its loose ends.
Anna (Adams) has a very professional relationship with her long-term boyfriend, Jeremy (Adam Scott). While he is a successful cardiologist, she decorates places in need of rent or purchase. One night at dinner Anna thinks that Jeremy is going to propose after an exchange with her best friend Libby (It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia’s own Sweet Dee herself, Kaitlin Olson, limited to two scenes and completely underused). Instead of a proposal, Jeremy gives Anna a new set of earrings and then gets called away to Ireland for a convention.
After Anna meets her father Jack (John Lithgow) at a bar, he drunkenly tells her about a fifth century Irish tradition where a woman would propose to her boyfriend on February 29th. Whatever year this film takes place happens to be a leap year and Anna gets beside herself and jumps on a plane to surprise Jeremy in Ireland and propose. It’s only after the usual weather hiccups that she winds up not flying into Dublin but Wales and is forced to take a fishing boat to Dingle, Ireland.
In Dingle, Anna meets bar owner and taxi driver Declan (Goode) who finally agrees to drive Anna to Dublin after she destroys her hotel room and knocks out the power of the entire town. The next day they begin their journey of self-discovery together where in five minutes Anna’s path is crossed by a black cat, the road is littered with a herd of cows, she steps in manure, manages to send Declan’s car into a wreck, and her suitcase is stolen by passersby. As you can see, wackiness ensues.
The whole enterprise seems suspect when the plot revolves around a character bound and determined to make it to Dublin and then only two scenes even take place there. It could all be forgiven if everything in the movie wasn’t played to the most obvious and situations weren’t downplayed to the point that it’s almost as if nothing is happening while everything is way over the top. Not all blame should be placed entirely on director Tucker, however. He’s working from an incoherent script from two of Hollywood’s top hack screenwriters, Deborah Kaplan and Harry Elfont.
Admittedly, these two have what I consider to be a few guilty pleasures under their belt (A Very Brady Sequel, Can’t Hardly Wait and yes, even Josie and the Pussycats). Nevertheless, they also have brought forth the likes of The Flintstones in Viva Rock Vegas, Ben Affleck’s Surviving Christmas, and one of 2008’s lamest flicks, Made of Honor.
Having been to Ireland myself, in late spring 2008, Leap Year also rings even more false if you know the lay of the land. This film is what I am deeming “geographically insulting.” Through oh-so-many mishaps and side trips it takes Anna about three days to make the trip from Dingle to Dublin. While visiting Ireland myself with family, we managed to make a round trip from Dublin to Cork (to visit the sadly closed for the morning “Crackpots” ceramic restaurant and wine bar) continuing up to Shannon and back west to Dublin all in one day.
The fact that Aer Lingus didn’t allow their official name to be associated with this mess should allow for a small moment of applause. If only everyone else were as smart as they were then the New Year wouldn’t be ringing in with such a horrendous hodgepodge of shenanigans. Thankfully, Amy Adams brings her trademark sense of whimsy to the proceedings as she manages to with every role starting all the way back to her Oscar nomination in Junebug.
Hopefully lessons were learned by everyone involved and the cast and crew can distance themselves from this muck of celluloid purgatory. While my hopes are high for Adams the same can’t be said for all. Too bad we can’t all travel back in time and band together to make a proposal of our own to the filmmakers and stop them from unleashing another bland entry to the already wallowing genre of chick flicks.
Photo courtesy Universal Pictures