Leap Year Review

Leap Year wants you to believe it is not going to be clichéd. It toys with the audience, making it seem funnier than it is. Is it playing with the cliché and turning it upside down?

See, Anna (Amy Adams) wants to marry that guy who always plays the obnoxious jerk (Adam Scott). Since he has failed to propose, she decides to follow an Irish tradition, following him to Dublin to make the proposal herself on February 29th, hence the title.

Of course, the plan goes awry, and Anna must deal with an obnoxious Irish pub owner, Declan. He agrees to take her to Dublin after he flight gets cancelled. Their adventure, or “wacky misadventures” as the studio line undoubtedly puts it, fills much of the film.

The sense is that these two are never, ever meant for each other. Declan is wonderfully harsh and cruel, almost refreshing for a romantic comedy like this. Anna and Declan climb a mountainside to a castle, Declan telling an old Irish tale of love and betrayal, ending with both of them at the peak, and the story concluding their location is a classic make-out spot. Do they kiss? Nope, Declan shoots her down coldly, blasting her ego in the process.

That’s funny.

In another moment, against a full moon on a beach, they embrace. Anna, beyond hammered due to a wedding reception, embraces Declan in a moment fit for a paperback romance novel. Do they kiss? Nope, she unloads a pile of vomit all over his shoes.

That’s funny too.

When you look back however, the entire thing becomes unfunny, purely because Anna makes the absurd decision to ditch her cardiologist fiancée she has known for four years for the random bartender in Ireland she has known for about three days. Ingenuity, or at least a refreshing level of cruel-natured fun, would have made Leap Year memorable. Having Declan put her down at “that moment,” and Anna throw up at “that moment” is sort of shoving genre contrivances into a cold, dark place.

When the film falls victim to the Hollywood romance, all that is left is Adams’ performance. Her charm, spunk, and energy make even her interaction with a herd of cows enjoyable, even more so than her actual human interactions. That says something for Adams, but not for this tired, familiar romantic comedy.

Movie ★★☆☆☆ 

Universal’s VC-1 encode for Leap Year can be summed up in one word: perfect. Those that lavish praise (rightfully) upon Avatar for its breathtaking visuals can see here how Blu-ray can present actual 35MM film with the same level of clarity. Films do not need large-scale action to be impressive in hi-def; they need exquisite photography. Shot on location in Ireland, Leap Year will likely be one of the most underrated transfers of the year, purely because the film itself is such a clunker.

Providing time stamps for the reference level shots is pointless. Anytime the camera pans back to reveal the work of cinematographer Newton Thomas Sigel, your jaw drops at the level of detail. Part of this, of course, is the lush Ireland countryside. Peppered with tall grass, exquisite rock formations, and staggering mountainsides, every ounce of potential detail is in full view. The first time the photography is allowed to shine is 14:01, with thousands of rocks on a path flawlessly defined well into the backdrop.

At 31:24, a wonderfully rendered shots of rolling hills is just beautiful, with stunning depth. That said, seconds later (31:47), one of the few flaws is noted, that of aliasing on the van’s door. Even at night the transfer is a showcase. At 1:10:06, the beach’s sand and rocks are fully backlit by the moon, and small waves are likewise illuminated perfectly. It is a gorgeous shot, yet aided by immense sharpness and flawless black levels.

If one thinks the compliments to the environments is all this transfer has to offer, they’re wrong. Reference levels of facial detail are evident in every frame, even in the mid-range. Pores, small hairs, and any other skin textures are absolutely defined without fault. Clothing reveals a crisp, clean surface. Colors, where needed, are outstanding. All shades burst off the screen, from the lush greens thanks to the various plant life, the eclectic paint job on the pub, or indoors with warmer hues. They are aided by a bright contrast and consistently deep blacks, further adding to the frame’s dimensionality.

A light grain structure is never a bother, a high bitrate handling it without fault. Early, some of the whites are marginally hot, and blooming is intentional whenever a window or light is in frame. Part of the original photography, it gives the film a glow, almost enhancing the purity of the whites, free of noise or intrusive enhancements.

Video ★★★★★ 

Universal presents a DTS-HD effort for this mundane comedy, but one with a few opportunities to flex itself. Adams’ takes a small ferry ride in the midst of a thunderstorm that causes heavy waves to kick up against the boat. While lacking a decisive, forceful low-end, the crispness of it all as the water splashes into every channel is superb. A car crash likewise lacks bass, but produces a convincing surround effect.

Numerous scenes of rain dot the film, all of them convincingly rendering an accurate, believable level of immersion. A hail storm is also lively. Ambiance during a wedding reception is excellent, the band producing wonderfully refined music. Dialogue remains prioritized. Some of the lines recorded after the fact via ADR become quite notable, although no fault of the sound mix. The light soundtrack offers limited extension into the low-end. The end theme by Colbie Caillat is soft, yet reproduced flawlessly.

Audio ★★★★☆ 

The brief extras selection delivers a selection of deleted scenes run seven minutes, and BD-Live support is typical for Universal (generic splash pages).

Extras ★☆☆☆☆