Published Dec 01, 2001With a likeable lead couple and an above average supporting cast, "Kate and Leopold" could have been a decent addition to the fluffy pile of romantic comedies. Unfortunately, the film's whole time-travelling concept is so overbearingly cloying that it negates any charm that the actors bring to it. The film follows a straightforward mix of predictable romance and predictable fish-out-of-water comedy (and I use that term loosely) to tell the story of Leopold (Hugh Jackman), a 19th century Duke, who follows his own great-grandson Stuart (Liev Schreiber) into present day New York City through a hole Stuart has found in the space time continuum. There, Leopold has a wacky time trying to adjust to modern technology and social values, but soon falls in love with Kate (Meg Ryan), a cynical market research executive who finds her hard edges softening when exposed to Leo's old-fashioned chivalry and charm.
Meg Ryan gives her usual performance, pleasant enough while being virtually indistinguishable for almost every other role of her career. Hugh Jackman does his best with thankless material that has him both prat-falling and being a dignified romantic presence all the while constantly lamenting the loss of civility that has occurred since his time. Liev Schreiber is relegated to the position of plot device, basically disappearing for the bulk of the film after initiating the whole time-travel thing. The cast is rounded out by Breckin Meyer, who has a sort of fumbling charm as Kate's brother, and Bradley Whitford, who bring far more depth to his sleazy boss stock character than is called for.
The ideas within the film are equal parts bizarre, stupid, ridiculous and offensive, even ignoring the countless leaps of logic one must make to accept the basic premise. Director/co-writer James Mangold's rose-coloured glasses have to be pretty darn thick in order to offer a portrait of such unmitigated nostalgia for Victorian times. I'd like to see a slightly more realistic version of the same tale, in which the romantic Duke Leopold is a scurvy-riddled haemophiliac. It's also a hard pill to swallow that Kate's journey is from being a successful career woman (portrayed as cold, unemotional and "like a man") who is transformed by falling in love with some lunatic who claims to be from the past because he does things like stand up when she leaves the table. Perhaps it's time to put the whole time-travelling genre to rest. Everyone knows it's all been downhill since "Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure" anyway.