Leap Year Review

First let me say that I like romantic comedies (I am a girl, after all). I thought The Ugly Truth was cute and I laughed until my face hurt at It’s Complicated. I own DVD copies of Laws of Attraction and 27 Dresses. I only mention this so you know that you can’t blame my subsequent dismembering of Leap Year on a general disdain for the genre.

For those of you who haven’t seen the trailer, here’s the gist:

Anna, an uptight New York decorator, travels to Ireland to propose to her boyfriend on leap day but finds herself falling for Declan, the random Irish pub owner helping her get to Dublin.

For those of you who have seen the trailer, congratulations. Now you don’t need to pay $11 to see the whole movie.

I say this because the trailer basically shows the entire plot with all the lame jokes, pratfalls, and contrived dialogue taken out. For this reason, seeing it is actually better than seeing the film.

Plot-wise, Leap Year can be described as The Proposal transplanted from Alaska to Ireland combined with Made of Honor in reverse (i.e. plucky Celt good, original American love interest bad).

a formula that can be mathematically expressed as above

The done-to-death road-trip obstacles all show up as Declan tries to help Anna get to Dublin in time for Leap Day. (If you’re wondering why Declan cares, it’s because the movie requires him to… though they technically justify it by putting him in debt to bookies or something.)

Anna’s luggage gets lost, they get rained on, they lose their car, etc. etc. etc.

The car! It’s in a pond! I so did not see that one coming!

But all romantic comedies have formulaic plots. They have to. We go to see them precisely because we we want to come out feeling a certain way (i.e. happy). The end is never surprising. However, most films at least try to make the journey interesting by throwing in a few jokes. For all its other flaws, The Proposal was at least funny. But Leap Year isn’t even trying.

In place of snappy love/hate dialogue exchanges like in 27 Dresses

JANE: “It was a theme wedding.”
KEVIN: “What was the theme? Humiliation?”

….we get whiny complaints about the weight of Anna’s luggage or Declan’s taste in music, and uninspired insults. “What are you, the Lucky Charms Leprechaun?” is something one seven year old might say to another.

Though it is funny that Declan thinks she named her suitcase Louis Vitton

Instead of the main characters having endearing quirks, like Audrey’s penchant for junk food in Laws of Attraction

she’s uptight too, but in a funny, “you have my panties” sort of way

… Anna falls down a lot and Declan chews with his mouth open.

A weakness in the humor department can sometimes be at least partially made up for by great chemistry in the romance department (I cite Made of Honor as an example). But although Amy Adams and Matthew Goode are charming and attractive people, they just can’t seem to overcome the bad writing here no matter how many gooey looks they give each other.

nope, still not feelin’ it

Anna and Declan, as they’re called in the film, are just too uninterested in each other until they’re obliged to kiss and share the same bed by tyrannical bed and breakfast owners.

Oh, there’s only one bed. How will we deal with this unexpected conundrum??

Add in the fact that Anna’s original boyfriend Jeremy…

who looks like Michael Sheen but is not

… is actually very kind, caring, appreciative, and suited to her, and that he and Anna are only apart for about three days, then Anna comes off looking pretty unlikeable. The filmmakers attempt to get around this by completely changing Jeremy’s personality in the last twenty minutes or so of the movie.

Anna I don’t really like you, my expensive suits are stolen, and I’m actually a serial killer… but marry me!

In the same way the actors were squandered, so was the setting. Despite the inclusion of fields, narrow lanes, a castle, and a truckload of Irish extras, the enchanting landscape of Ireland, which was used to great effect in P.S. I Love You

Help! Stupid Americans stranded in an isolated lake!

…fails to elicit awe and the “culture shock moments” produce no laughter. They might as well have set it in Portugal or Australia or Montana for all the use they made of the Irish background. You can make jokes about drinking and primitive facilities anywhere.

I own a bar! Hur hur. Guinness!

The “Leap Day” gimmick is the one flash of originality this film exhibits. This folk tradition from Finland, Denmark, Ireland, and Scotland where women are allowed to propose to their fellas on February 29th, was indeed an interesting premise for a romantic comedy. It just would have been more appropriate if the movie had been set in something like 1950, before it became commonly accepted that women can do just about anything they want whenever they want. Suggesting that this one single day is the only day of the year that a self-assured modern woman like Anna could propose to her boyfriend (who, incidentally, has never heard of the tradition) is dangerously absurd logic. But then again, absurd logic is the order of the day in Leap Year.

It’s absurd that anyone (even a woman from New York) would travel with only one pair of shoes–with six inch heels on them (that’ll be nice and comfy on the plane).

What are you talking about? This outfit is completely appropriate for overseas travel.

It’s absurd that Declan somehow conjures up a new outfit for each of the three days they spend on the road, despite having taken no luggage with him.

even if he had it all on, he’s never carrying a sweater or anything

It’s absurd that Anna has only one skill (staging houses) and her only demonstration of it is setting the table for dinner, but somehow she wins Declan’s respect.

now that I’ve seen your prowess with napkin rings I’m rethinking my opinion of you

It’s absurd that this move was completed in the first place, given how little effort everyone involved seemed to have been putting in.

And it’s absurd that I had to pay $11 to find out how bad it was.

While it’s not excruciating enough to earn any drill bits, I’d give it three out of a possible five rolled eyeballs. If you must pay to partake of a rom com, see It’s Complicated instead.

Buy Leap Year on DVD

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