Genre: Romance, Fantasy
Country: United States
Starring: Meg Ryan, Hugh Jackman, Liev Schreiber, Breckin Meyer, Natasha Lyonne, Spalding Gray, Bradley Whitford, Paxton Whitehead, Philip Bosco, Kristen Schaal
Director: James Mangold
Run time: 118 minutes
DVD distributor: Alliance Films
Special feature: Director’s cut (122 minutes)
It’s easy to be cynical about Kate And Leopold. And so I will. The first thing that leaped out at me in this movie is that Liev Schreiber has been in a five-year (presumably sexual) relationship with his own great-grandmother. I don’t think I’m giving anything away here. The logical conclusion to this movie is absolutely obvious from the very beginning.
Now, my own great-grandmother died about thirty years before I was born. I never met her, have seen only a few pictures. But were I to time-travel, I don’t think I could bring myself to have sex with her. It would, of course, be very creepy. Now, in Schreiber’s defense, he isn’t aware that he is sleeping with his own great-grandmother (Meg Ryan). But once he realizes, is he not freaked out? Does this not bother him in any way? Wouldn’t his skin be crawling like that of Marty McFly when his own mom wants to give him a hand job? Or are we just supposed to gloss over the whole thing?
I think we’re supposed to gloss over this entire movie, frankly. Thinking about it too much will just ruin the whole thing. Like thinking about how Meg Ryan can go back in time, mother a child who will then father a child who will then mother Liev Schreiber, who will then have sex with Meg Ryan who has been brought into this world by her own mother, a woman who presumably has never had any contact with the Schreiber family tree in any way, and who also produced a brother for her (Breckin Meyer).
So, anyway. Kate And Leopold is, obviously, about time travel. As a time-travel romance goes, it’s somewhere below The Time Traveller’s Wife and above Beastmaster 2: Through the Portal of Time. It opens with Liev Schreiber discovering a way to travel through time (it involves jumping off the Brooklyn Bridge – don’t think about it). He goes back to 1867 to follow his great-grandfather around, the Third Duke of Albany (Hugh Jackman). Accidentally, he brings the Duke back to his own time when he returns. And silliness must therefore ensue.
Some of that silliness is quite entertaining. Usually, in these silly time-traveler movies, the “fish out of water” bits are the worst. But Hugh Jackman manages to convey haughty dignity and chivalrous charm while doing the most mundane things. A scene where he refuses to pick up the dog’s business is terrific. And it’s to the movie’s credit that it doesn’t dwell too much on these details. It’s to the movie’s discredit that it inserts the requisite chivalry-on-horseback scene, where Jackman steals a horse to chase down a mugger and inexplicably brings Meg Ryan along for the ride.
I’m not a big Meg Ryan fan. I think of her the way I think about a cat. Like, it’s there, and it’s cute, but really it’s just part of the furniture and I don’t think about it much or notice it at all. A dog, I like. They play. They lick you. They bark and make their presence known. Like Sofia Vergara. Whereas cats, and Meg Ryan, are background noise. And she is just that in Kate And Leopold. One of her standard career-driven, waiting-for-love characters she has played so many times before.
So what, exactly, does Hugh Jackman of 1867 see in this woman? I would understand if he came to our time and encountered Angelina Jolie, or Megan Fox, or Alyssa Milano or Eliza Dushku. Just listing some of my favourites… But Meg Ryan? How is she any different from the women of his day, except that she’s a little bit more independant? No, what has happened here is that she just happened to be the first woman he encountered in our time, and his pompous romanticism took over, whereupon he believed he was in love with her. I, for one, did NOT believe it. I was irritated by her.
So the time-travel story is ludicrous and unbelievable, the central romance is flat, implausible and stretches credibility, and three of the four main characters (including Breckin Meyer) are useless. What made me give this movie an average, 5 out of 10 rating and not a dreadful one? Hugh Jackman. His attitude toward the modern world provides the contrast with the ancient world that a movie like this must provide. And he alone makes the movie entertaining at times, just watchable at others, even though it’s total fluff.
One problem here though – none of these movies, ever, suggests that the modern world might actually be better than the old one. In 1867, men were chivalrous, life moved leisurely, people had honour and morals, and no one insulted a lady. See – it was better! Something more could have been made of this film if more were made of the improvements in society since that time – women are now independant. They can now vote. They are societal equals. Segregation is no longer an institutional edict. The list goes on and on.
But nothing about Kate And Leopold suggests the film makers are interested in making a point, or doing anything other than getting Jackman and Ryan together. They SEEM to be making a point about commercialism and the crass nature of commercials, television, movies and advertising. But sadly, they just prove their own point by making a crassly commercial film that seems to have been created by one of the very focus groups the movie tries to skewer.
Anyway, the Valentine’s Day Edition of Kate And Leopold comes out January 18th from Alliance Films, with a nice pink heart-covered cardboard slip case, along with several other movies – The Notebook, Sex and the City, The Time Traveler’s Wife, The Backup Plan and Dear John. Kate And Leopold is better than…half of those.