In this slight but inoffensive rom-com from writer-director James Mangold, we’re introduced to Leopold Alexis Elijah Walker Thomas Gareth Mountbatten, Duke of Albany (Hugh Jackman). Leopold is living in New York in the year 1876 and on the cusp of becoming engaged to someone he doesn’t love in order to please his father. When he spots an odd man at a party, he pursues the figure and ends up following the man through a portal into modern-day New York City. He soon discovers that this mysterious person is a scientist named Stuart Besser (Liev Schreiber) who has discovered the secret to traveling through time.
Once the initial shock of being in the modern era wears off, the Duke is introduced to the city and to Stuart’s ex-girlfriend Kate McKay (Meg Ryan). Though she’s sworn off romance and thinks Leopold is an actor pretending to be from another time, the two become friends and eventually sparks begin to fly. Stuart meanwhile, has ended up in a psychiatric ward due to his outlandish tale of time travel. Unfortunately, what should be a breezy 90-minute romp is stretched to two hours and I found my interest flagging in the second half.
One of the main issues with the plot is character motivation. Leopold comes forward to our time and finds himself unencumbered by the title he despises, the father who calls him a disappointment, and the pressure to marry immediately. There seems little reason for him to go home other than to have a bit of drama towards the end of the movie. As for Kate, she’s not exactly bursting with happiness but seems quite comfortable in her life, and the two of them don’t have the chemistry of a classic romantic comedy duo like Hepburn and Tracy or even Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan herself.
Luckily the acting is uniformly good and there are a number of interesting cast members in addition to the three leads. Natasha Lyonne plays Kate’s work assistant, Spalding Gray appears as Stuart’s doctor, and the film features the screen debut of Kristen Schaal (more recently known for 30 Rock, Flight of the Conchords, and The Daily Show).
On the whole it’s certainly a nice change of pace from the usual rom-com fare, and may be a decent compromise for those times when one person in a couple wants romance and the other wants adventure. Viewers who enjoy time travel mixed with romance would be well advised to also check out the 1980 film Somewhere In Time, starring Christopher Reeve and Jane Seymour.
The visuals on this new Miramax Blu-ray of Kate & Leopold are very good. There’s a bit of film grain but not a distracting amount. The DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio sounds good to my ears. Optional English (SDH) and Spanish subtitles are offered for the main feature. All of the extra features from the previous DVD version of this title are present, including an odd extended scene near the movie’s ending that offers a slightly disturbing revelation about Kate’s previous relationship. The DVD cover art reproduced the theatrical poster with Leopold looking back over his shoulder at Kate. It was a playful interaction but the Blu-ray, for some reason, has opted to slap the two stars’ faces haphazardly next to each other in Photoshop. The result is bland at best, when you’d think a film needs every advantage to stand out in the vast romantic comedy landscape.