Beware, V-Day approaches. What is V-Day? It's a little holiday in February known as Valentine's Day that demands a predictable onslaught of cards, flowers, candy, romance and declarations of love. Just as predictable is the spate of film releases that come out in the weeks before V-Day arrives. Let's welcome Leap Year to theatres, the first, but certainly not the last, of these movies made specifically for Valentine's Day audiences.
What kind of films qualify for inclusion into the V-Day club? That's easy. They are nearly always romantic comedies and tend to gravitate toward the underwhelming, unoriginal and extremely formulaic. This time of year is a graveyard for the uninspired romantic comedy. The films are pre-programmed and utilize similar plots, year after year. How bad has it gotten? Before Leap Year began, I endured a trailer for the meta V-Day film called, what else, Valentine's Day. How creative of Hollywood to give us something unique and original.
Tell me if this sounds familiar. Amy Adams plays Anna, a determined Bostonian who takes her career and her relationship with a handsome surgeon equally serious. It's not all about work for Anna, though as she's just aching to get a proposal from her seemingly perfect boyfriend. It's been four years after all--how long does a modern girl have to wait?
If the beau won't pop the question, she might as well take the initiative. It seems in Ireland, on Leap Day only, women are allowed to propose to men without a legacy of shame and embarrassment that this might cause Anna back home in Boston. Guess what? Leap day is only a couple days away!
In a few hours Anna finds herself on a jet flying to Ireland (the boyfriend just happens to be in Dublin doing unknown doctoring) to take care of this matrimonial business herself.
Boston to Dublin seems like an easy trip, it's not. This is a V-Day movie, so throw that kind of logic out the window right now. In less than a minute of screen time, we see Anna emergency landing on a jet, being forced ashore while on a boat and standing wet and forlorn in some isolated pub in Ireland.
A few minutes later, she's met an annoying local named Declan (Matthew Goode) who agrees to take her to Dublin, despite the fact they can't stand each other. Can you predict what happens? Of course you can, it wouldn't be a V-Day film if you couldn't.
We've seen the story of Leap Year a thousand times. Put a no-nonsense, sort of annoying, sort of spoiled woman in unfriendly environs. Have her meet a laid-back, lacking ambition kind of guy but who is still kind of cute in a grumpy way. Put the two in a car together so they are forced to interact with each other and an assortment of crusty eccentrics they encounter on the road. Soon, she becomes less uptight and likable, he becomes more beguiling. Lo-and-behold, the mismatched pair start to see one another in new ways.
Adams (Enchanted, Julie & Julia) is a charming, plucky actress, but if there's nothing to work with, there's nothing to work with and that's the case with Leap Year. The script is a never ending parade of deja vu banter, pratfalls and a story so by-the-numbers that the lizard from the Geico commercials could have come up with something better.
Even the music is especially programmed for V-Day audiences. A few seconds before some sappy moment of realization hits Anna or Declan, tinkling piano and swelling strings can be heard. It's a musical sound bridge that hints in a few seconds one of them will be staring off into the distance in contemplation or dewy-eyed with the notion of cross-Atlantic, unrequited love.
Don't think for a second I'm just being snobby when it comes to the romantic comedy genre and enjoy attacking any of them that I happen to see. I happen to really love the romantic comedy when it is done right. (500) Days of Summer was one of my favorite films of 2009 and screwball romantic comedies from the 1930s are probably my all-time favorite genre in film history. My love for quality romantic comedies is what makes watching the endless parade of these lifeless films so infuriating.
There is not one thing about Leap Year that separates it from the myriad of similar films released this time of year. It's a pre-packaged romantic comedy aimed at suckers who can't seem to connect the dots between Leap Year and all the drivel that comes out in January that is exactly the same, year after year after year. Don't say I didn't warn you as V-Day approaches and you find yourself miserably enduring Leap Year or one of its ilks.
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