Movie Magazine International

Kate & Leopold

USA - 2001

Movie Review By Casey McCabe

There are some funny and romantic moments in the new romantic comedy Kate & Leopold. I just wish I could remember them. By the time the film ended, what remained was a deep, abiding sadness to go along with the near exhaustion at all the heavy lifting the lightweight fare required. I'm pretty certain this is not what the filmmakers were aiming for.

Things start out promising enough. Leopold is the charming but duty-bound Third Duke of Albany, living in 19th Century New York. A reversal of family fortunes has forced him to undertake a marriage of convenience, and he prepares to nobly resign himself to the task. His innate chivalry, along with the perfect cut of Hugh Jackman's jib, makes Leopold irresistible to ladies of all classes and space/time continuums.

Kate is a 21st Century market researcher. We first meet her at a test screening for a new romantic comedy, and from her cynical take on the demographics of weepiness springs hope that the film is about to parody those Nora Ephron/Meg Ryan brand romantic comedies. A possibility all the more intriguing as Meg Ryan herself plays Kate.

What separates these two wounded lovebirds is 125 years and all good and holy logic. Bringing them together requires a tear in the fabric of time, as discovered by Kate's ex-boyfriend who is also Leopold's great-great grandson. Needless to say, hijinks ensue. Unfortunately from here on out, both the hijinks and romance feel as if they were assembled in response to focus group testing, the very type of low-risk mass marketing the film periodically tries to lampoon.

The ultimate failure to inspire lies in the film's often hesitant script. But there's another reason Kate & Leopold made me feel uneasy. It's the kind of thing most people whisper about, but in fairness to all parties it should be discussed openly. Meg Ryan is 40 years old. She looks too thin. She appears to have had a collagen lip injection. She wears her hair in her face like a 20 year old. Make no mistake, she's a very fetching marketing executive. But I found it difficult not to think about the many times Meg Ryan has played the adorable single girl and played it winningly. Yet here she is, looking older, trying hard to look younger, still single and relegated to plots involving time travel and handsome princes. Maybe other people won't find this oddly depressing, but I did. Of course Hugh Jackman has the unfair advantage of growing into his dashing good looks. Then again, life isn't fair. Then again, this isn't life. Hugh and Meg are real people. Kate & Leopold are movie characters. And despite the great lengths to which this fantasy goes, Kate has not earned Leopold, nor can I imagine her being happy in the 19th Century.

What's really unfair about the film is the look on the face of the young woman Leopold is whisking around a 19th Century dance floor. She's the young woman from a wealthy family that Leopold is resigning himself to marry. The actress was cast to be slightly homely, and she doesn't speak a word in the film. Yet when Leopold enters the room and squires her, she radiates a sweetness and devotion that never once crosses the face of Kate. I think the sweet shy girl should have gotten the handsome prince, and they wouldn't have even needed to tear the fabric of time. But I guess the folks in the test-marketing audience disagreed.

© 2001 - Casey McCabe - Air Date: 12/01

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