Reviewed by GREG KING
Director: James Mangold
Stars: Meg Ryan, Hugh Jackman, Live Schreiber, Breckin Meyer
Blast From The Past, indeed!
Queen of the romantic comedy, Meg Ryan returns to safe territory with this fluffy, light weight, undeniably formulaic farce in which a 19th century duke travels to modern day New York via a time portal and romances a jaded, high powered marketing executive. A healthy suspension of disbelief is required in order to accept the central premise, but Kate & Leopold is ultimately quite pleasant and innocuous, if not exactly a world beater of this genre.
Aussie Hugh Jackman’s Hollywood career continues to go from strength to strength, and he firmly cements his place amongst hunky romantic leads with his solid performance here. Jackman exudes plenty of charm as Leopold, the third duke of Albany, a former noble whose family has fallen on hard times. Leopold is being pressed to marry a wealthy young woman to try and restore the family fortune. But during the ball in which he will announce the identity of his future bride, Leopold spots Stuart (Liev Schreiber), a strange outsider taking photographs and follows him out of curiosity. Stuart is something of an eccentric who has discovered the secret to time travel, a time portal located near the Brooklyn Bridge that has transported him from modern day New York back to 1870. Unfortunately, Leopold follows Stuart back into the present day, where he is stranded until the portal opens again in a few days’ time.
When marketing executive Kate (Ryan), Stuart’s former girl friend who lives in the downstairs apartment, first sees the bewildered duke she dismisses him as one of Stuart’s whacky friends and, because of his attire, a member of a Sgt Pepper’s tribute band. But slowly the duke’s old-fashioned sense of values, morality and manners work their charm on the cynical Kate, and a reluctant romance blossoms between the pair. Eventually Kate has to make a decision about whether to pursue her successful career or follow the duke back in time to create a new life for herself in 19th century New York.
Writer/director James Mangold (better known for more serious fare like Heavy, Copland, etc) doesn’t take the material too seriously, and milks some wonderful touches of humour from the duke’s predicament as he tries to adjust to some of the electronic marvels of the 20th century, like television, telephones and toasters.
Jackman has plenty of charm as the fastidious duke, and is quite believable in his fish out of water role. Ryan plays the sort of role she could do in her sleep, although her slightly ditzy and accident prone Kate is given to pratfalls and some unusual physical comedy. Unfortunately though there is little chemistry or sparkle between the two protagonists, which diminishes the overall enjoyment of the film. Breckin Meyer (recently seen in Rat Race, etc) and indy favourite Schreiber bring some touches of humour to their roles.
Kate & Leopold is a little long for what it tries to do, and there are a few sluggish passages that slow proceedings down. Nonetheless, Kate & Leopold is enjoyable enough without becoming too saccharine or sentimental, and should please audiences who like this sort of thing.