Kate & Leopold

Romantic comedies follow a path from Point A to Point B, with predefined jokes, set relationship problems, and single-characteristic sidekicks. Because of the assembly line nature of these types of movies, they tend to fall on the dull side. Kate & Leopold manages to dodge this mostly because of the charm of its two principals, Hugh Jackman and Meg Ryan. Jackman is a rising star that keeps getting better with each film he makes. Ryan is the undisputed queen of romantic comedies. Her presence alone is (usually) able to make a film seem better than it actually is. With every bat of her eyelash, tilt of her head or pursing of her lips, audiences just go gaga for Meg. Kate & Leopold does not break any ground in any category, but it is a cute movie. Kate (Ryan, Proof of Life, Hanging Up) is a marketing executive who lives in the apartment beneath her ex-boyfriend Stuart (Liev Schreiber, Scream 3, Spring Forward).

Stuart is some undefined scientist who discovered a portal to the 19th Century. While traveling there, he attracts the attention of Leopold (Jackman, Someone Like You, Swordfish), who follows him back into the future. Stuart is determined to get Leopold back home to the past, but gets into an amusing accident that prevents him from doing so. Leopold, totally unfamiliar with the modern world, must somehow fend for himself. He befriends Kate's brother Charlie (Breckin Meyer, Josie and the Pussycats, Road Trip), which eventually leads him to Kate. Kate does not believe either Stuart of Leopold's story that he is from the past, and because she met him essentially through Stuart, she takes an instant disliking to him (of course). However, Leopold is a handsome, dashing duke, and his 19th Century charm and politeness (he rises when a woman leaves the table, ...) slowly wins her over (of course). Ryan and Jackman have a surprising amount of chemistry together. Meyer has a small, one-dimensional character notable only for the fact that he is not annoying. What director James Mangold (Girl, Interrupted, Cop Land) does with the Stuart character is much funnier. Stuart has his own exasperating experiences during Kate & Leopold, as he tries to make his way back to his apartment. This is Schreiber's closest role to comedy, and he is pretty funny.

Kate must face the inevitability that Leopold must return to the past. As the formula dictates, this realization will hit her hardest when she finally falls for him. Everything is so transparent and blatant that there are no surprises, and the time travel angle is purely a plot gimmick; anybody looking for sense or detail will not find any (it's okay since this isn't a science fiction movie). Leopold's experiences in the new world, which constitute a decent chunk of the movie, are not that amusing. There are clumsy sequences with him trying to shave, encountering laws with doggie doo, and answering a telephone, among others. What works is Leopold's slow wooing of Kate. He announces his intentions in the form of a letter, and is a perfect gentleman in every way. In fact, writer Steven Rogers (Earthly Possessions, Stepmom) and co-writer Mangold portray him as the perfect man that no woman on Earth can resist. Kate is the cynical, cautious, working woman, and even she will eventually yield. It's so refreshing to see such an unrealistic, rose-tinted, innocent relationship portrayed on screen.

Haro Rates It: Not Bad.
2 hours, 1 minute, Rated PG-13 for brief strong language.

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