Kate & Leopold

Kate & Leopold

2001, PG-13, 114 min. Directed by James Mangold. Starring Meg Ryan, Hugh Jackman, Breckin Meyer, Liev Schreiber, Natasha Lyonne, Bradley Whitford, Philip Bosco.

REVIEWED By Marrit Ingman, Fri., Dec. 28, 2001

There's a telling moment in Kate & Leopold in which an artsy-fartsy film director whirls on our heroine, a careerist test marketer, and huffily declares, “You people with your tests, you are sucking the life out of American cinema!” He should know: The director is helmer Mangold, making a cameo, and he might as well be describing his own film. There's nothing terribly wrong with Kate & Leopold -- it's just an awfully conventional upmarket romantic comedy, complete with a climactic rooftop dinner, references to Breakfast at Tiffany's, moonstruck New York scenery, and wistful debate about whether it's preferable to “face up to reality” or “live a fairy tale.” Ryan is cute as a button, with careerwear from Barney's and a haircut so radically texturized that it looks like some kind of pasta, and suitor Jackman is so dashing that when it's time to write a love note, he siphons the ink from a ballpoint and whittles his own quill. There's an excitable, moony-eyed dog and wacky sidekicks for each co-star (Ryan has Lyonne, Jackman gets Schreiber, and Meyer switch-hits between the two). Fair enough, but don't expect many surprises in the mix, aside from the occasional moment of winking self-reflexivity. An English duke transplanted in Manhattan, circa 1876, Leopold (Jackman) is thrust into the 21st century when he innocently follows his mad-scientist descendant (Schreiber) through a time warp that opens and closes over the Brooklyn Bridge in accordance with the dictates of the screenplay. Even in 1876, the dashing duke is considered a mushy-headed romantic, preferring his wacky inventions (such as a prototypical elevator) to practical notions like marriage and advancing the family. With his jodhpurs, genteel manners, and mellifluous accent, Leopold makes even more of an impression in 2001, but sensible Kate (Ryan) is unmoved, vacillating between Leopold's overtures and an ill-advised dalliance with her slimy boss (Whitford). It's a connect-the-dots kind of plot. The time-travel conceit isn't even as far-out as it sounds; it's merely a perfunctorily handled suspense device that complicates the inevitable, aside from certain moments in which Schreiber, clearly enjoying himself, chews his wild-eyed dialogue about “a crack in the fabric of time.” The actors are all fine, though Lyonne is underused, and Jackman is probably charming enough to carry the movie. He remains dignified throughout the requisite fish-out-of-water sight gags (an ongoing battle with an electric toaster), and the film's best moments rip savvily on his audience-pleasing hunkiness. (Kate recruits him as the studmuffin spokesman for a line of diet butter, banking on him as an object of feminine wish fulfillment.) But the in-jokes seem almost like a defensive posture from Mangold, a prestige director who co-wrote the script with Steven Rogers, a specialist in the feel-good formula (Hope Floats and Stepmom). It's really not wrong to hope for more from the creator of more complex, character-driven fare (such as Heavy and Cop Land).

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for almost 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

READ MORE
More James Mangold Films
Ford v Ferrari
Enduring male bonding cuts through racetrack noise and paddock politics

Steve Davis, Nov. 15, 2019

Logan
Hugh Jackman sports those famous mutton chops for the final time

Kimberley Jones, March 3, 2017

More by Marrit Ingman
Wonder Stories
Wonder Stories
Books

July 25, 2008

King Corn
The film’s light hand, appealing style, and simple exposition make it an eminently watchable inquiry into the politics of food, public health, and the reasons why corn has become an ingredient in virtually everything we eat.

Nov. 9, 2007

KEYWORDS FOR THIS FILM

Kate & Leopold, James Mangold, Meg Ryan, Hugh Jackman, Breckin Meyer, Liev Schreiber, Natasha Lyonne, Bradley Whitford, Philip Bosco

MORE IN THE ARCHIVES
NEWSLETTERS
One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

Eric Goodman's Austin FC column, other soccer news

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle