Meg Ryan is the Queen of the Romantic Comedy. While she has evolved over the years, she is still every studio’s first choice for romantic female lead in just about any comedy. Which is ironic since her character in Kate & Leopold is introduced during a market screening of a faux romance-drama as someone who picks apart the flaws of the lead actress and defends her actions by saying, “I’m not a female protagonist in a feature film.” It’s a testament to Ryan that for a brief moment, we believe her.
We believe Ryan for her sincerity, which lies beneath each of her characters’ elegant-yet-still-frumpy-at-the-same-time exterior. And we believe her new beau, Australian heartthrob Hugh Jackman, because his character is convincingly from 1876.
Even when hokey romantic comedies have to resort to time travelling plots for the sole purpose of polishing up an old piece of furniture, chemistry can always be the savior. And luckily for their Kate and Leopold, Ryan and Jackman have it.
In the film, Kate (Ryan) is a market analyst that polls test audiences for everything from movies to spokesmen for dietary butter spreads. She used to date Stuart (Live Schreiber), who is the great-grandson of elevator inventor Duke Leopold of Albany (Jackman). When inventor-wannabe Stuart finally finds a portal through time off the Brooklyn Bridge, he lands in 1876 and follows Leopold around. However, when Leopold’s suspicion of Stuart gets the better of him, they both come back to present day New York and that’s when Kate and Leopold meet.
Breckin Meyer, Bradley Whitford and Natasha Lyonne round out the cast as Kate’s brother, boss and assistant, respectively. Each is given enough nuances for their own comic moments, which makes for a more-balanced romantic comedy than most paint-by-numbers screenplays written these days.
Similar to Serendipity, Kate & Leopold takes the fate cake and eats it, too. Where these films can go wrong is when the witty material is lacking and it makes way for criticism in the implausible premise and ultimately ruins the enjoyable experience. Romantic comedies don’t attempt to give life-affirming messages and opt to simply make you laugh. And, oh yeah, have a happy ending.
So in these respects, Kate & Leopold succeeds on all accounts.
At first, Jackman’s clean-cut, 19th-century duke doesn’t come across as cool as his gruff characters do in Swordfish and this year’s earlier romantic comedy, Someone Like You. But once his character meets Kate, all the charm you could ask for begins eschewing as if it were rain. Certainly, not all men a hundred years ago were as considerate and proper as Leopold is here, but Jackman’s smirk and conviction to his character make it okay to stereotype this one. Especially when the sentimental music kicks in and everyone is rooting for the titular pair to get together.
The film doesn’t provide anything new, simply serving as a new spin on an old tale, but it does give what people want. And it allows the ever-mature Ryan another chance at doing what she does best, since society probably won’t allow her to continue her reign in a few more years.
In the mean time, Kate & Leopold will serve as the perfect date movie of the winter, mixed in with the sob-fest dramas that will saturate this holiday season.
- Kate & Leopold is Rated PG-13
- Contact William Albritton at firstname.lastname@example.org