Monday, May 9, 2011

Kate & Leopold (2001) [PG-13] ***

A film review by Claudia Puig for USA Today, Dec. 31, 2001.

You know the singles scene has become grim when the best advice a Hollywood movie can offer is, Date a guy from another century. But in Kate & Leopold, the dashing Duke of Albany - who travels through a portal in time from 1876 into modern-day New York - so outclasses contemporary guys that women will walk out of the theater seeking a portal of their own.

It's not just that Leopold (Hugh Jackman) is a handsome hunk who's as chivalrous as a knight and rides a white steed as if his life depended on it. He also knows how to slow down and savor life.

That's something crack market researcher Kate McKay (Meg Ryan) thinks she doesn't need as she immerses herself in corporate climbing to recover from a disheartening relationship with a brilliant dreamer (Liev Schreiber).

What eventually happens to our hard-bitten exec and poetic hero isn't hard to guess. And if you can ignore the glaring implausibilities, Kate & Leopold is a sometimes charming fable that is worth seeing mainly because of Jackman's performance. He's an Aussie who convincingly plays the role of a courtly but free-thinking Victorian aristocrat.

Many, though, will be put off by forced moments that spoil what could have been a pleasant diversion. A just-beamed-in Leopold manages to find a violinist, a caterer and other service personnel to set up an intimate dinner-for-two on the roof of Kate's apartment building. And when Kate spouts thoroughly modern psychobabble, Leopold nods knowingly - not a bit perplexed by the contemporary jargon.

The movie also is hindered by Ryan's performance, which is almost a caricature of the persona that worked in When Harry Met Sally…, Sleepless in Seattle and You’ve Got Mail. That bubbly girl-next-door now seems brittle and mannered, and one wishes she'd dial back the cutesy quotient and develop a more mature style.

Worse, Kate & Leopold is lacking in originality. Think the fish-out-of-water love story Splash crossed with the old-fashioned romance Somewhere in Time. Too bad director/co-writer James Mangold (Cop Land; Girl, Interrupted) couldn't come up with anything fresher and more worthy of Jackman's suave grace. [Puig’s rating: ** out of 4]

Labels: comedy, fantasy, romance, space-time

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