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Leap Year (PG)

In this film publicity image released by Universal Pictures, Amy Adams and Matthew Goode, right, are shown in a scene from, "Leap Year." (AP Photo/Universal Pictures, Jonathan Hession)
In this film publicity image released by Universal Pictures, Amy Adams and Matthew Goode, right, are shown in a scene from, "Leap Year." (AP Photo/Universal Pictures, Jonathan Hession)

Rich in cliché and brimming with the sort of potent idiocy that can only be found in January-release romantic comedies, Leap Year manages to do every possible thing wrong.

It’s riddled with stereotypes and improbabilities and — taking a page from the dreadful Renée Zellweger/Harry Connick Jr. debacle New in Town — asks us to believe an unpleasant, materialistic, self-centered yuppie will suddenly transform into a loving, caring individual if only she can spend time with a handsome salt-of-the-earth, blue-collar guy. Because, you know, poverty is so much more authentic than being able to pay your bills. Such a paradox — movies like Leap Year disdain affluent white Americans even though they’re frequently made by and for . . . well, you get the idea.

Directed by Anand Tucker (Shopgirl), Leap Year starts out with one of the sillier romantic comedy premises (its screenwriters are responsible for the equally wretched Patrick Dempsey film Made of Honor, and even that movie made more sense). Prissy American Anna (Amy Adams) is desperate to get married, but her doctor boyfriend (Adam Scott) is more concerned with his upcoming conference in Dublin.

Anna’s ne’er-do-well dad (John Lithgow in a brief appearance) suggests Anna make use of an ancient Irish tradition (apparently so old that nobody has ever heard of it): She should surprise the guy in Dublin on Feb. 29, because on that day women are allowed to ask men to marry them. Why women can’t do the asking any day is beyond my understanding, as it’s 2010 and not the 17th century, but nobody checked with me when they were working on the script.

Anna heads off to the Emerald Isle, but bad weather thwarts her travel plans, and she ends up in a tiny hamlet where she is forced to pay a sexy Irish barman (Matthew Goode, recently seen as Colin Firth’s dead boyfriend in A Single Man) to drive her to Dublin. Naturally these two fall in love after a series of mishaps that prove Anna utterly unworthy of having anyone root for her happiness.

In reality, Declan would’ve wanted to drop her in the River Shannon five minutes after meeting her. He’d have kicked her out of his car halfway to Dublin, retired to the pub for a few Guinness drafts to push the entire experience out of his mind and decided the priesthood wasn’t a bad way to go.

The worst part of this equation is that the appealing Amy Adams — just seen in 2009 as the Julie half of Julie & Julia — has no excuse for being part of this mess. She’s a fresh and likeable actress who is perfectly capable of holding her own with such heavy hitters as Meryl Streep and Philip Seymour Hoffman (her co-stars in Doubt). Why she is a party to such blarney remains a mystery as puzzling as the question of why anybody thought Leap Year was a good idea.

Cast: Amy Adams, Matthew Goode, Adam Scott, John Lithgow.

Director: Anand Tucker.

Screenwriters: Deborah Kaplan, Harry Elfont.

Producers: Gary Barber, Chris Bender, Roger Birnbaum, Jake Weiner.

A Universal release. Running time: 101 minutes. Sensuality, language. Playing at area theaters.

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