Erin Go Aagh!
How do you say "turkey" in Gaelic? Whatever the expression, it applies to Leap Year, a sludgy romantic comedy about a Boston priss who travels to Ireland to propose to her American boyfriend but falls for a handsome pub owner instead.
Referring to the movie as "Leap Frog" is an understandable slip of the tongue since paying to see it amounts to kissing a frog -- with the proviso that no prince materializes. This isn't a knock against British actor Matthew Goode's turn as the Irishman who prevents a grave matrimonial mistake. He and co-star Amy Adams, undoubtedly fetching and talented in her own right, deserve better, as do moviegoers.
Because the static movie has been slipped onto the schedule during the post-holiday lull, one assumes the filmmakers are prepared for a box-office dud. But what were they thinking?
Prompted by her perpetually inebriated, ne'er-do-well father (John Lithgow), Anna Brady decides to give her boyfriend Jeremy (Adam Scott) a big push toward the altar. There's an Irish folk legend, which Anna's grandmother evidently exploited, that says a woman can ask a man to marry her on Leap Day February 29th and he cannot refuse.
When much-in-demand cardiologist Jeremy goes to Dublin for a medical conference, Anna follows, timing her arrival so she'll be able to pop the question on the appropriate date. Alas, inclement weather disrupts her plans and after an arduous journey she finds herself in a Dingle watering hole run by surly Declan (Goode). Because he's desperately in need of funds and Anna is willing to part with an inordinate amount of Euros, Declan saddles himself with driving her to Dublin.
Their trip goes in fits and starts. They're waylaid by dairy cows, the peculiarities of the Irish rail system, and their failure to see eye to eye on sundry trivial matters. The supposedly mismatched pair is destined for a union that would make John Wayne and Maureen O'Hara sick to their stomachs.
Anna and Declan must pose as husband and wife to stay the night at a quaint bed-and-breakfast; it's there, while preparing Coq a Vin for the owners and a middle-aged Italian couple, that their amorous feelings starts simmering if not quite bubbling to the surface. He sees a glimmer of soulfulness beneath her haughty, materialistic exterior and she begins to realize that his cynicism stems from having been wounded romantically. Their fate is sealed long before they crash a romantic lakeside wedding -- where some disastrous slapstick ensues, with the bride as the victim -- but the story keeps droning on without producing any laughs whatsoever.
Back in Boston, Anna works as a real estate stager, arranging apartments and homes in the most optimal manner to encourage quick sales. Director Anand Tucker and screenwriters Deborah Kaplan and Harry Elfont have taken a similar approach to their movie. They rearrange the furniture and display the odd bit of dramatic scenery without adding anything substantial to the old-as-the-hills premise. The question of "chemistry" always arises in this context. But the script is too inept for it to become a factor. At least Adams and Goode both have nice skin.
The screwball template gets mangled because Anna and Declan come off as infantile nitwits, undercutting any romantic rapport. It's a forced courtship, and her break from beau Jeremy feels equally unnatural. Prior to the final reel, his biggest fault is a penchant for loud suits and ugly pastel Windsor-knotted ties. He goes from life-saving heart doctor to jerk just to facilitate her growth and multinational romance.
Kaplan and Elfon have a reputation as script doctors, which apparently ruled out seeking a referral in this dire case. There's not nearly enough fresh Blarney to distinguish the dialogue. Shots of Anna's high-heels sinking into mud passes for visual humor and Declan's oft-repeated reference to her swanky Louis Vuitton luggage as "Louis" must suffice as verbal wit. The less said about the Irish stereotypes -- daft pub-goers keeling over from the drink -- the better. There's one tensely sexy scene, sans dialogue and set to a cool version of "Dream a Little Dream of Me," when Anna and Declan find themselves in bed together, fighting to resist their physical attraction.
Otherwise, attempts to add taste and viscosity to this flavorless porridge using jazzy renditions of pop songs and Irish folk music fail. And the Irish custom concerning leap-year proposals gets summarily tossed into a peat bog, which is exactly where Leap Year belongs.
(Released by Universal Pictures and rated "PG" for sensuality and language.)