Stars must shine brighter than the material that surrounds them. Amy Adams certainly does that in Leap Year, which opens wide today. (See the Cinematical review by Eric D. Snider.) The creaky romantic comedy is not worthy of her talents, but you'd never know that from watching Adams in the movie. She's game for just about anything, whether it's stepping in cow flop, getting covered in mud, chasing a runaway car down a hill, or delivering lines that weren't funny when they were first trotted out in vaudeville 80 years ago.
It's a measure of Adams' abilities that you may be tempted to root for her sweet, clueless character anyway. Resistance is not futile; the film's charms are, sadly, very limited, and witnessing a supposedly modern adult woman act like a naive girl-child is quite frustrating. Still, Adams graces two quiet interludes with soul and warmth, and avoids becoming fussy and mannered in an attempt to oversell the comedy -- a trap that the great Meryl Streep fell into recently with It's Complicated.
Adams and Streep have appeared together in two films, so it's instructive to compare the two at similar stages of their respective careers. Streep began her screen career at the age of 28 with a supporting role in Julia in 1977. Over the next decade, she filled her resume with a range of high-powered dramatics and sorrowful tragedy. She became a fixture at the Academy Awards, earning two Oscars and five other nominations during that ten-year period. She rose quickly into the ranks of dramatic leading ladies, but it seems that it was difficult at the time for audiences to accept her as anything other than some variation of a cool, distant customer.