Luck of the Irish

Leap Year tactfully avoids romantic comedy clichés

*** Opens Friday area wide

I'm not Irish, nor have I ever visited the Emerald Isle. But if Newton Thomas Sigel's lush, picture-postcard-worthy cinematography in Leap Year is to be believed, Ireland may just be the most enchanted — and certainly most rhapsodically beautiful — place on earth. Whereas some films make you hungry, sleepy or sad, Leap Year makes you want to hightail it to the nearest travel agency and book your next vacation.

Directed by the estimable Anand Tucker (Shopgirl, Hilary and Jackie) in a somewhat lighter mode than usual, the film owes a huge debt of gratitude to its pixie-ish leading lady, two-time Oscar nominee Amy Adams. As Anna, a Boston real-estate sharpie who travels to Ireland just so she can propose to her yuppie doctor boyfriend (Adam Scott) on February 29th, the adorable Adams makes a fairly pedestrian script by husband-and-wife writing team Deborah Kaplan and Harry Elfont (Made of Honor, Can't Hardly Wait) seem far brighter, smarter and wittier than it really is. Very little of what transpires in this featherweight romantic comedy is remotely surprising or fresh, yet Adams keeps you happily glued to your seat from start to finish.

Helping matters considerably is Tucker's deft and blessedly restrained hand while tackling even the hoariest rom-com conventions (the meet-cute scene, the tacky motel-room It Happened One Night moment, etc.). And if Matthew Goode (playing Adams' hate-him-at-first-sight Irishman suitor-to-be) lacks the megawatt charisma and virile studliness that, say, Colin Farrell might have brought to the role, he's still immensely winning. (Sadly, the great John Lithgow is relegated to just one brief scene as Adams' ne'er-do-well Bawstun dad.)

Yet, for a major studio movie opening in the first week of January, Leap Year is surprisingly enjoyable. (For comparison's sake, we had the dreadful Bride Wars on the same weekend last year). It also gets mad props for having the good taste to use Mama Cass Elliot's great "Dream a Little Dream of Me" during the big icebreaker moment. Sometimes all it takes to surrender cliché defenses is the right song playing in the background of even the most hackneyed of scenes.

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