Miramax // 2001 // 118 Minutes // Rated PG-13
Reviewed by Judge Patrick Naugle // August 8th, 2002
If they lived in the same century, they'd be perfect for each other.
Let's just get it out in the open -- Meg Ryan is a getting a little too old to be playing these cutise single types. In the time bending romantic comedy Kate & Leopold, Ryan looks like she's starting to get a little droopy and a bit too cranky for her own good. Putting that aside, Hugh Jackman's got a zing to him and finally excels a role that's outside of his Wolverine box. Also starring Breckin Meyer (Rat Race, Road Trip), Liev Schreiber (Scream 2, Twilight), and Natasha Lyonne (But I'm A Cheerleader, Slums of Beverly Hills), Kate & Leopold comes out of the past and onto your DVD player care of Buena Vista Home Entertainment.
Kate (Ryan) is a 21st century single businesswoman. Leopold (Jackman) is an 19th century Duke of Albany, a man looking for a companion who can think for herself and doesn't look like a homely toad. These two characters are brought together by a tear (or is it a rip?) in the fabric of the time-space continuum that has been found by Kate's ex-boyfriend Stuart (Schreiber). Stuart has found that if you jump off the Brooklyn Bridge at just the right place and moment, you can leap through to the past -- which is exactly what he does. While taking some snapshots in the 19th century, Stuart accidentally brings Leopold back to modern day New York with him after he follows Stuart into the portal. Stuart lives right above Kate in the same apartment complex, which makes for a handy way for everyone to meet. Waking up the next morning, Stuart begins to explain to Leopold where he is and exactly what has happened. Not surprisingly, Leopold seems a bit baffled by such modern conveniences as toasters, television, and the bustling ways of New York City. Hearing some ruckus in Stuart's apartment, Kate peeks her head though his window from the fire escape and -- bingo! -- love is in the air! Kate and Leopold meet, and from here on out it's a whirlwind romance that to work must stand the test of time...no matter what century they're in!
Love demands that you be in the right place at the right time to occur. Otherwise, everything shirks off balance and it all becomes moot. But what if you found the right person in the wrong place at the wrong time...as in, the wrong century? Thus stands the premise of Kate & Leopold, a cute comedy that probably played a lot better on my TV then it did in a large movie house. The writer/director is James Mangold, a talented filmmaker who seems to try something new with each consecutive outing. In 1997, Mangold made the Robert De Niro / Sylvester Stallone drama Copland. In '99 he came out with the Oscar winning Girl, Interrupted. Kate & Leopold is a drastic departure from his previous films and shows that he's a thoughtful, intelligent writer who can do seething drama as well as romantic comedy.
I enjoyed this movie. Upon initially popping the disc into my player, I wasn't really expecting much as past reviews hadn't been very kind. Maybe critics and fans were expecting a mushy, typical Meg Ryan love flick in the vein of When Harry Met Sally or Sleepless in Seattle. While Kate & Leopold isn't quite as clever as When Harry Met Sally, it's thankfully not as overtly sappy as Sleepless in Seattle. Kate & Leopold finds a balance between love and cleverness while avoiding pandering to its audience. The movie sidesteps any obvious "fish-out-of-water" clichés with Leopold (look, Leo has experienced a water slide! And a blender! And McDonalds!) and makes his entrance into 2001 New York enjoyable. Up until this point, I'd seen Jackman as the superhero Wolverine in X-Men and as a super computer hacker in the guilty pleasure Swordfish. I'm happy to report that Jackman is an articulate, funny actor who plays the part of Leopold with expertise and gusto.
I'm a sucker for movies about time travel. The juxtaposition of time and people always makes for good viewing (unless you're watching the cruddy time travel debacle Just Visiting). I liked the way the screenplay didn't try to explain why there was a gap in time -- there just is. Like Bill Murray's Groundhog Day, Kate & Leopold doesn't wax intellectual on what's going on; instead, it focuses on the budding relationship between Leopold and Kate. The supporting cast tends to teeter on the periphery of the film, though both Breckin Meyer and Liev Schreiber do a good job with their funny but limited characters.
If the movie stumbles in any one particular place it's with Ryan's character Kate. Kate is such an abrasive, bitter woman that it's hard to see what Leopold finds attractive in her (except for her cute but aging looks). Some of Kate's dialogue and zingers are funny (when she spots Leopold in one of his 19th century jackets she asks if he's Sergeant Pepper), but often she seems to be harboring some unbridled hatred for the human race. If the script would have softened her up a little, the romance between these two would have been much more plausible.
Kate & Leopold is not the perfect movie, but it is a nice way to spend a Friday night with your main squeeze. The performances are (mostly) winning, the screenplay thoughtful, and the mood romantic! Insert drippy amore quip here.
Kate & Leopold is presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen. Ah, what a nice job Buena Vista has done on this print. Sporting a solid array of colors and black levels, this is a DVD transfer to be savored and enjoyed! While I did catch a smattering of edge enhancement in one scene, overall this is a very crisp print and fantastic effort by the studio!
The soundtrack is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1 in English and French. There is nice use of the soundstage with directional effects coming in loud and clear. Of course, don't be shocked to learn that this isn't an effects heavy film -- many of the surround sounds are subtle and featured in the background noises. However, there are enough effects here (especially when the time portal opens and closes) to please home theater fans. No alternate subtitles are included on this disc.
While maybe not jam packed with supplements, Kate & Leopold does include a few extra features for the romantic in all of us. First off, viewers can choose from either the "director's cut" or the "theatrical cut" of the film. The "director's cut" obviously includes some extra scenes and extended sequences that flesh out the characters and story a bit more (including a revelation about Kate and Stuart's ancestry). Both versions play well, though I'd personally just stick with the theatrical cut of the film.
Next up is a commentary track by director James Mangold. Mangold is an articulate guy who couldn't have cared less about the whole time-travel premise. Instead, he was much more interested in the characters and their interaction with each other. If you're looking for technical aspects of filmmaking this track may disappoint, but if hoping for some information on the characters and the director's insight into the story, this commentary should suffice.
Seven anamorphic deleted scenes with optional director's commentary are included in a rough but passable state. Some of these scenes are interesting (including a revelation about Leopold in the back of a taxi cab) while others fall flat and were justifiably excluded from the final film.
"On the Set" is a short featurette with the typical talking heads yammering on about the cast, production, story, et cetera. Interviewees include producer Cathy Konrad, director James Mangold, stars Meg Ryan and Hugh Jackman, and others. This isn't a horrible featurette, though it's certainly not going to add to one's knowledge of the production.
Finally, there is a short featurette on the costumes (which I'll admit I fast forwarded through since I wasn't all that interested), a ho-hum music video for the Sting song "Until" (featuring the Stinged one singing in his studio), a photo gallery, and a batch of trailers for other Buena Vista releases.
What are you looking at? Okay, so I kinda liked Kate & Leopold. It may be mushy fluff, but it's enjoyable mushy fluff. Hugh Jackman does a fine job and Meg Ryan...well, she needs to get more beauty sleep. Meow!
Kate & Leopold is free to go because we all need a lil' L-O-V-E in our lives...even in the 19th century!
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Scales of Justice
* 1.85:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (French)
Running Time: 118 Minutes
Release Year: 2001
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13
* Two Versions of Film: Original Theatrical Version or Director's Cut
* Commentary by Director James Mangold
* Deleted Scenes with Commentary
* Music Video "Until" by Sting
* Costume Featurette
* "On the Set" Featurette
* Photo Gallery