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Kate & Leopold

Kate & Leopold (2001) starstarstar

Reviewed 2001-07-20
: If it's a sappy, romantic comedy, then it must star Meg Ryan. What a surprise! Well, actually, there aren't many surprises in Kate & Leopold, but the ones it contains Second Look Reviewshould be cherished. I have often criticized Meg Ryan for playing the same character in almost every film -- You've Got Mail (1998), City of Angels (1998), Addicted to Love (1997), French Kiss (1995), IQ (1994), Sleepless in Seattle (1993), When Harry Met Sally... (1989) -- which makes her all the more interesting to watch when she occasionally tries a role that's really challenging -- Courage Under Fire (1996), Restoration (1995), When a Man Loves a Woman (1994). But playing Kate McKay, another romantic lead, kind of returns her to her (blonde) roots, as it were. It's just that those roots are 40 years old and she really needs to grow up.

The premise has promise: what if a 19th duke who was dissatisfied with his life encountered a 21st century marketing analyst who's Meg Ryan, Hugh Jackmandissatisfied with her life, through a time travel mechanism discovered by her ex-lover and the duke's descendant? Under director James Mangold (who piloted the excellent 1999 film, Girl, Interrupted) the promise is fulfilled with fun. The duke, Leopold (Hugh Jackman), who starts out not believing in romance, goes through the fish-out-of-water routine in modern-day New York, which he left in 1876, with aplomb and also with some literary poise, as well. He was brought to his future, accidentally (if there can be any accidents in this deterministic worldview), by his great great grandson, Stuart (Liev Schreiber). Problem is, Kate (who also doesn't believe in romance) falls in love with Leopold; Leopold falls in love with Kate, and love must be requited or history will be altered. Stuart, of course, must get Leopold back to his own time or he will be no descendant.

Much has been made of the implied incest in the script: if Kate and Stuart had been lovers, and if Kate marries Stuart's great great grandfather... It gives me a headache. And it didn't have to be: the problem could have been resolved by making Kate and Stuart friends instead of lovers; in fact, Leopold didn't have to be Stuart's ancestor, after all. There is no sex or nudity (this is a Meg Ryan film, after all), and it delivers the laughs and the tender moments it promises. In fact, I love sappy romantic comedies, no matter how implausible. I love stories about time travel (I'm hoping someday to see Ken Grimwood's Replay on the big screen). I even like Meg Ryan. So I say Kate & Leopold is fun & funny, but Meg Ryan needs a different role.

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Ronald Bruce Meyer is a freelance reviewer.