Leap Year

Every January there’s at least one awful comedy aimed at female audiences that makes you wonder how dumb Hollywood thinks women are. Last year it was “Bride Wars” and “New in Town.” In 2008 it was “27 Dresses.” This year it’s “Leap Year’s” turn to suck.

Amy Adams, in an egregious misuse of Amy Adams, stars as Anna, a punctual, precise woman who has a terrific career in real estate but will not be happy until her cardiologist boyfriend marries her. His name is Jeremy (Adam Scott), and though they’ve been dating for four years, he has yet to pop the question. He is not neglectful or mean or any of the other things that the Wrong Boyfriend usually is in these movies. His only fault, apart from checking his e-mail at dinner (and he IS a cardiologist, for crying out loud), is that he has so far failed to buy her an engagement ring.

But then Anna is reminded that according to Irish custom, on Feb. 29 a woman is allowed to propose marriage to a man. (If she were to do this on any other day, the woman would of course be put to death for her brazenness.) As it happens, Jeremy is going to Ireland for a medical convention. And as it happens, he’ll be there on Feb. 29. And as it happens, Anna has nothing better to do than drop everything, buy a last-minute ticket to Dublin, and show up to surprise Jeremy with a marriage proposal. You will agree that this plan is utterly flawless and logically sound.

Despite the brilliant and entirely non-desperate nature of Anna’s scheme, things go awry. Weather forces her plane to land in Cardiff, Wales, instead of Dublin, and she must hire a ferry to take her across the Irish Sea, whereupon she stumbles in to one of those quaint Irish countryside pubs where elderly drunks spend their days saying charming Irish things. The proprietor of this establishment, a handsome young fellow named Declan (Matthew Goode), tells Anna he hates Dublin but will drive her there for 500 euros. The character doesn’t need to hate Dublin for the story to work, but it gives the screenwriters — Deborah Kaplan and Harry Elfont, who also wrote “Josie and the Pussycats,” “Can’t Hardly Wait,” and “Surviving Christmas” — an excuse to tell us, later on, WHY he hates Dublin, which of course is that it’s where a woman who broke his heart lives. (Spoiler alert.)

Is Declan and Anna’s trek to Dublin full of hijinks and misadventures? You bet your sweet lass it is! What it is not full of is laughter or mirth or any good reason to keep watching. Directed by the usually sophisticated Anand Tucker (“Hilary and Jackie,” “Shopgirl”), “Leap Year” forgets the most important thing about romantic comedies: We know how they’re going to end, so the journey needs to be the fun part. But this journey is merely a rehash of generic road-trip disasters (cows on the road; falling in mud; etc.) and endless, immature bickering between Anna and Declan.

Tell me again why they hate each other so much? No, I misspoke: Tell me for the first time why they hate each other so much. As far as I can tell, it’s only because, well, they’re supposed to. That’s just how these movies are. But while Anna is a little uptight and snobby (she has a Louis Vuitton suitcase and $600 shoes), she’s certainly not unbearable, and I can’t detect any personality traits in Declan at all, positive or negative. He’s not abrasive or sloppy or crude. He’s just … the guy who isn’t Anna’s boyfriend, and thus someone she’s supposed to hate (right up until she falls in love with him) (spoiler alert).

It’s not indicated where on the coast of Ireland the ferry from Wales dropped Anna off, but she couldn’t realistically be more than about 100 miles from Dublin. Yet it takes her three days to get there. Even allowing for missed trains and malfunctioning automobiles and sudden rainstorms, three days? To go a hundred miles? You could walk a hundred miles in three days. I’m just sayin’.

Of course, if the trip went more quickly, we wouldn’t have things like the lengthy sequence in which the two must pretend to be married in order to secure lodging at a bed-and-breakfast owned by an old-fashioned couple. Yes, it’s the ol’ pretend-to-be-married routine, as seen in many other movies! Do not be surprised if the quaint proprietors order Declan and Anna to kiss passionately as a means of proving their love! Do not also be surprised if, before the sequence is over, you find yourself praying for the sweet release of death!

Amy Adams is badly cast here, playing an embarrassingly retro woman who relies on a man (first Jeremy, then Declan) for everything. The only reason Declan continues to accompany Anna on her journey after his car breaks down is that she insists upon it, apparently unable to take a train to Dublin by herself. At one point she’s fed up with him and lets him leave, only to immediately change her mind and chase after him because she’s scared by a dog. (Really.) The fact that Adams, through the sheer force of her feisty screen presence, almost makes this debacle tolerable is a testament to her talent. More resonant, however, is the disappointing realization that she agreed to make such an unfunny, dunderheaded comedy in the first place.

(Note: John Lithgow plays Anna’s father. He appears for one two-minute scene early in the film, solely to tell us about Ireland’s Leap Year tradition, and is never heard from again. This is a waste of John Lithgow. It will not be tolerated.)

D- (1 hr., 37 min.; PG, a little mild profanity.)