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Kate & Leopold

Starring Meg Ryan and Hugh Jackman; Liev Schrieber
Screenplay by James Mangold, Steven Rogers
Based on a story by Steven Rogers
Directed by James Mangold

IN SHORT: Buy popcorn and snuggle up. [Rated PG-13 for brief strong language.]

We will fully admit that, in our humble opinion, of all the A-name stars in the Hollywood firmament, Meg Ryan (click for StarTalk) is the most appealing blonde of all of 'em. Cast her in a romantic comedy with any kind of legs to it and our pathetic li'l heart goes all a-thumpitty. That being said, it is a rare co-star who can rise above the horizon of our MR-POV, but it happens in Kate & Leopold. We'd often joke about wanting to be George Clooney when we grew up but, between landing Ryan in this flick and snikt'ing Wolverine's claws in his X-Men role, we'll settle for Hugh Jackman. Hey, a guy can dream, can't he?

This time out, Jackman plays Leopold, third Duke of Albany, imported to the century old United States from his failing family estate in the old Empire by his uncle. This "Duke of Nothing" would prefer to spend his time inventing useful things, like the elevator, rather than courting the richest, ugliest women in New York, but he knows his duty. It is at one of these arranged parties that Leopold spots an uninvited guest waving a strange metal box and gives chase to the blaggard, Stuart Besser (Liev Schreiber). The eventual capture throws the pair a century plus into the future, to our time. Stuart, you see, is exploiting a rift in the time-space continuum which allows him to travel from modern days back to April 28, 1876.

Kate McKay (Meg Ryan) is a driven market research executive. Her job is to massage ad campaigns to get you to buy stuff that you don't want or like, and she is apparently very good at it. Her company is about to go into a major merger. Kate is anxiously awaiting news of her fate from J.J. Camden (Bradley Whitford), her boss, and she doesn't like the distracting noise coming from the apartment of her ex- boyfriend one floor up, easily accessible from the fire escape. The ex is Stuart, the noise is him trying to keep Leopold from being exposed to the modern world, knowledge of which could destroy the space time continuum. Said destruction begins with the malfunction of every elevator in Manhattan, which puts Stuart in the hospital and out of the story for a good long time.

The workings of the time-space continuum is nothing we're going to concern ourselves with. We're not going to try to explain it or how he's come to discover it. Schreiber's role is the unexplainable nudge that pushes the story towards its point. Indeed, when we were shown the film, we were told of several changes that would eventually remove most of his part. Nothing so significant that it gets in the way of a film that had a rough time on the editing block to begin with -- keep your ears open for a pair of big continuity errors -- and nothing that dilutes the onscreen chemistry between Ryan and Jackman one bit.

No one communicates the information that the Stranger must remain isolated to Kate's roommate (also her brother), the habitually unemployed actor Charlie (Breckin Meyer). Charlie takes our leading man all around town. From here on in, no matter how convenient or convoluted or just plain ridiculous any of the situations may seem -- we've already written and deleted them from this review -- chemistry rules. Kate is floored by Leopold's politeness and manners. Chivalry isn't dead, though the chauvinism that walked hand in hand with it certainly is, but Leopold is an exceptionally forward thinking kind of guy and adapts remarkably well to his new situation. Telling anything else would take the fun away.

Kate & Leopold is, in its own madcap, wacky way, reminiscent of those black and white classics you can only see on the AMC cable channel. Her Kate is so fixated on the future that she can't see what all around her, including assistant Darci (Natasha Lyonne), can. Jackman's "Don" is as remarkably civil as he is free of shell-shock from his long distance voyage. There's a crackle between the pair that is almost electric, without even trying. We were left with that ever popular warm fuzzy feeling inside. Kate & Leopold doesn't go overboard on the fuzzies which gets it added points in our book and that is what puts this flick at dateflick level, rather than reco'ing that you microwave your popcorn at home.

On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Nine Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to Kate & Leopold, he would have paid . . .


Take a date. Discussion topic for after you've seen the flick: why is it that Stuart always goes back to the same date in 1876 yet, when he comes "home" it is always to a different day, presumably the forward moving day that he "left" on?

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