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January 17, 2010

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So-so comedy's worth the trip

THE romantic-comedy "Leap Year" gets by, barely, on the charms of its stars and the beauty of its Irish scenery.

Amy Adams and Matthew Goode aren't particularly convincing during the loathing portion of their on-screen couple's love-hate relationship, but when the ice thaws they bring a tender depth of feeling to the oh-so-ordinary material.

There's half a watchable movie here and, as luck would have it, you have to sit through a good 45 minutes of creaky contrivances to get to the good stuff.

The set-up has control-freak Anna (Adams) freaking out herself when her pink-tie-wearing, cardiologist boyfriend of four years, Jeremy (Adam Scott), gives her diamond earrings instead of an expected engagement ring.

When the helmet-haired Jeremy goes to Dublin for a cardiology convention, Anna books a ticket to Ireland, intent on using a folksy, Emerald Isle leap-year custom that gives women carte blanche to pop the question.

Yes, underneath all the order and precision, Anna is an incurable romantic. Bad weather diverts Anna's plane to Wales.

There she hops a boat and lands in Western Ireland, specifically in the town of Dingle, though there is scant evidence of the charming Dingle in the movie.

Catch the Robert Mitchum movie, "Ryan's Daughter," for the real deal.

What we do see is one lonely pub, which also functions as the hotel and taxi hub. There Anna meets scruffy charmer Declan (Goode), and hires him to drive her to Dublin in time for Leap Day.

Now, it's about 354 kilometers from Dingle to Dublin, but somehow our couple's journey stretches to three days -- enough time for them to drop their guard and fall hopelessly in love.

First, though, Anna has to see past Declan's rudeness, and he needs to look beyond her penchant for control.

One night in a bed-and-breakfast, where they're forced to act as a married couple in order to get a room, works wonders in settling both these issues.

There's not one surprising moment in the script, but Adams and Goode allow you to look past the familiar and develop a bigger interest in them as a couple.

Adams isn't particularly endearing (or convincing) playing prissy. But she's got sincerity in spades as well as the ability to dive headfirst into impulse moments after displaying the huggable sensitivity we first saw in "Junebug."

As for Goode, it seems ridiculous that, after excellent work in "Match Point," "Brideshead Revisited" and, most recently, as Colin Firth's lover in "A Single Man," it will be a silly movie like "Leap Year" that makes him a star.

So be it. Director Anand Tucker ("Shopgirl") gets more mileage from Goode's reaction shots than he does all the wacky scenes featuring road-blocking cows and high-flying, high-heeled shoes.

And Tucker knows what he has in Ireland, too, presenting the rugged beauty of the bogs, lakes and mountains of Connemara in western Ireland in an unadorned way, knowing the area needs no embellishment.

Okay, the sunset finale at the Cliffs of Moher is a little over-the-top, but by that point you don't care -- because you actually care. That's the surprise of "Leap Year."


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