Kate & Leopold

on December 25, 2001 by Bridget Byrne
   There is nothing 100 percent wrong with a movie that features Hugh Jackman in breeches riding a white horse through New York's Central Park. Nevertheless “Kate & Leopold” is a 99-percent dud.

   The problems are signaled right from the start when that excellent actor Liev Schreiber is forced to giggle at a crass joke about edifices being called erections in order to emphasis there's a time warp going on here. For a movie that presumably is trying to tell us that we need to put good manners back into our notions of romance, this sort of puerile humor is a mistake.

   Hollywood's continued effort to separate Meg Ryan further and further from her true love now moves her beyond the width of the U.S. continent and the barrier of the Internet into a time warp. The artificially and ploddingly contrived script features the fetching Ryan in sharp dress-for-success clothes and the latest variation of her hack-attack hairstyle as a wound-tight 21st-century market research executive. Ryan plays this love-me-hate-me-but-really-really-love-me role looking cute and with slightly less of her usual I-seem-to-have-water-in-my-ear head-shaking puzzlement, but the script gives her nothing really interesting, heart-warming or even merely charming to do.

   Her true love arrives in the form of Jackman, looking very spruce, dashing and well-laundered, even though he's just dropped in from the 19th century via a time portal located on the Brooklyn Bridge. He's apparently an intellectual, impoverished British aristocrat who was about to sell out and marry any American heiress who would have him, but then this time-travel thing happened. Jackman, like Ryan, does the best he can with no decent material to hang his good looks on. He stands up when a woman gets up from the table, apologizes when he bumps into someone on the crowded street--that sort of thing--and waxes poetic instead of crudely lustful when romance arises. He also cooks--not something you might expect of a Victorian duke, but, hey, cooking for your date is today's love letter.

   This sort of stuff about whether to make a giant leap into the unknown to find love has been done many times before with much more wit and charm--“Splash” for example. This bland, taffy-pulled, over-long go-round, like something put together by market research, lacks most of the essentials of true love--heart, passion, sexuality, excitement etc. etc.

   Schreiber, stuck in the nerd ex-boyfriend role, is unable to show off his ability, even though his character's been tagged with a cute, large dog as a pointer that's he's a good guy, really; just wrong for Ryan. The poor dog, which nobleman Jackman is forced to take on walkies, is stuck with having to do its business publicly in order to provide another crass joke to make sure we really get the picture that New York now is not New York then. One is tempted to say “horse manure” to it all. Starring Meg Ryan, Hugh Jackman and Liev Schreiber. Directed by James Mangold. Written by James Mangold and Steven Rogers. Produced by Cathy Konrad. A Miramax release. Romantic comedy. Rated PG-13 for brief strong language. Running time: 123 mi

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