"We know that the road to freedom has always been stalked by death." ---HL Staff that went to Rome---


BIASES: mid 20s black male; frustrated screenwriter who favors action, comedy, and glossy, big budget movies over indie flicks, kiddie flicks, and weepy Merchant Ivory fare

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Kate & Leopold

MOVIE BIASES: Looks cheesier than a Wisconsin dairy farm.
MAJOR PLAYERS: Meg Ryan (You've Got Mail), Hugh Jackman (X-Men), Liev Schreiber (Scream), and screenwriter/director James Mangold (Girl, Interrupted).


America loves Meg Ryan. They love her doing what she does best - the romantic comedy. Never mind a gritty role in "Courage Under Fire," and a questionable turn on and off screen in "Proof of Life" - we want to see her bouncing and percolating her way through trifles like "Sleepless in Seattle," "You've Got Mail," and the quintessential romantic comedy "When Harry Met Sally." Well that's what "Kate and Leopold" is, a trifle, one that Merry Meg's perkiness and a decent high concept can't even save from the conventionality of Hollywood's most originality-challenged genre.


Kate McKay (Ryan) is a high-powered (re: lonely) 21st century career woman. Leopold (Jackman), Duke of Albany is, well, a Duke of Albany (re: lonely and unchallenged) in 1876 New York. With his family madly in debt, Leopold is being pushed to marry someone for money, not love. Kate, in pursuit of breaking the corporate glass ceiling at her market research job with the carrot of a promotion dangling over her head, is pushing for money over love. Their worlds collide when Kate's upstairs neighbor/ex-boyfriend Stuart (Schreiber) finds a portal back to 1876, and accidentally has Leopold follow him back. As Leopold adjusts to modern life with his gentlemanly ways, Kate adjusts to having a modern life affected by gentlemanly ways. Could a 21st century career woman fall for a 19th century gentleman?


You better believe Meg Ryan will give it a shot. Not as perky but a little more pissed and cynical in this role, Ryan does her thing with her perfunctory timing and skill (plus a career woman layered cut), and a minimum of her trademark, cutesy nose crinkles. She only comes to life toward the end when counted upon to deliver two important monologues that drive home the film's message on life and love. Hugh Jackman is a red-hot star just starting to blaze. Even in spite of a bland misstep in "Someone Like You," Jackman has the presence to carry off Leopold's breeding and training without a hitch. He is rugged, masculine, yet emotionally accessible - the quintessential 21st century man. Charisma oozes from every pore.

Too bad the same can't be said for this movie. A very laborious script that squanders a high concept, time travel, fish out of water story threatens to diminish the wattage of its stars. If it weren't for a few impassioned, well thought out monologues by the leads at the end, the movie's dialogue would be unspeakable. By the numbers direction by Mangold doesn't inspire much of anything, either. While "Kate and Leopold" is a trifle, it's a trifle worth watching for Jackman and the message alone. Love can conquer all, even time. But it sure can't conquer a bad script.

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2001, THE REEL DEAL

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