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Until February 21, 2008, this film had never been shown theatrically anywhere in America because of Roscoe 'Fatty' Arbuckle's murder trial, except for special screenings such as the ones in Washington, D.C. at the American Film Institute theater at the Kennedy Center on 18 March 1981, in Los Angeles CA at the Fairfax Theatre 10 April 1981 and at the Pacific Film Archive in Berkeley CA on 22 August 1993. See more »
Enjoyable Comedy, & Something Of A Change-Of-Pace From Arbuckle
In itself, this is an enjoyable light comedy with a lot of energy. It also represented something of a change of pace from Roscoe Arbuckle, both in attempting to expand his style of comedy into a full-length feature, and in emphasizing comedy ideas involving relationships and situations over and above pure slapstick. It's quite unfortunate that his career was ruined even before this could be released, and in particular this shows the kinds of possibilities that could have been in his future.
The story premise is not a lot different in style from the setup to many of Arbuckle's one- and two-reel features, just a little more complex. Arbuckle plays nephew to Lucien Litttlefield's grouchy uncle character, and Arbuckle's character is involved in all kinds of romantic difficulties; he's unable to work things out with the woman he really loves, and he's pursued by a number of others whom he doesn't love. All of these entanglements are set up in a light, fluffy way, and this part makes for pleasant comedy in itself.
In a shorter movie, the setup would most likely have been followed by a lot of slapstick and then a quick resolution, and indeed Roscoe and the cast could have done this without difficulty, since Arbuckle was an expert in working with that kind of format. But here, the story takes it in a more complicated and interesting direction, with the main character's predicament getting more complicated all the time, even as he resorts to various ruses. The last portion features a pleasantly manic unraveling of the tangled web that has developed, and it includes some witty ideas along with the slapstick.
This may not seem all that impressive now, because in the mid- to late 1920s the other silent comedy greats learned to master the full-length format, leading to many movies that are still among the all-time best comedies. Given the chance, Arbuckle could well have created his own comic gems over time. "Leap Year" is only good, not great, but it would have been a solid first step.
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