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Leap Year -- Film Review

The Bottom Line

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Although that rousing Irish backdrop is undeniably enticing, it's the foreground that proves problematic in "Leap Year," an uneven romantic comedy that feels as fresh as a hunk of week-old soda bread.

That it ultimately manages to get to where it needs to go is a testament to the persuasive charms of entangled leads Amy Adams and Matthew Goode, but you can see even them struggling for a while there with various plot and character constraints.

The targeted female demographic could very well take Universal up on its offer of some welcome winter escapism, but the end result likely will fall considerably short of recent Sandra Bullock numbers.

Hanging plot mechanics on a wobbly hook involving an Irish tradition of women proposing to their suitors on Feb. 29, screenwriters Deborah Kaplan & Harry Elfont ("Surviving Christmas") provide Adams' Boston apartment stager Anna with a workable motive to fly to Dublin with the intention of popping the question to her slow-on-the-uptake cardiologist boyfriend (Adam Scott).

But once on the Emerald Isle, where she immediately gets off on the wrong foot with Goode's pub proprietor, Declan, the script is content to let the unpredictable Irish climate do most of the heavy lifting where comedic opportunities are concerned.

Adams gamely battles the wind-whipped elements even if she's not quite in her own element here, saddled with a self-involved, cold-fish-out-of-water character similar to the one played last year by Renee Zellweger in the deservedly short-lived "New in Town."

When finally allowed to drop the strained adversarial act, Adams' winning vulnerability rises to the occasion, and Goode lives up to his name as her agreeably roguish chaperone.

Director Anand Tucker, known for more serious stuff including "And When Did You Last See Your Father?" and "Shopgirl," is fond of tight close-ups that impart a weighty significance to scenes that cry out for a breezier comic touch, especially during the picture's first half.

Fortunately, cinematographer Newton Thomas Sigel pulls back sufficiently to capture all that stirring Irish scenery, and Randy Edelman's pleasant score goes easy on the obligatory lilt.

Opens: Friday, Jan. 8 (Universal)