While Meg Ryan has contributed some worthy movies to the "chick flick" genre, KATE AND LEOPOLD falls woefully short of "good movie" status. While not a complete nadir, KATE AND LEOPOLD serves up yet another formulaic movie that offers no real surprises and makes us wonder why Ryan plays a role in a film as uninspiring as this. Not that the acting is bad, because it's not. The real problem is the story itself.
Stuart (Live Scheiber), an inventor and Kate's ex, discovers a time wormhole and travels back to 1876 New York. Leopold (X Men's Hugh Jackman), who invented elevators, chases him from his uncle's house, where he is to announce his bride to be, back through the wormhole into modern day New York. Leopold was to marry into money since his family has run short of funds. The rest of the movie shows Leopold adjusting to the modern world and wooing Kate (Ryan) off her feet. The first half plays like a natural "fish out of water" story. Stuart conviently has an elevator accident, getting him out of the majority of the movie. Also making an appearance, Charlie (Breckin Meyer), Kate's brother, spends a lot of time with Leopold, thinking him another actor. Beware: spoiler ahead. If you know anything about films, it's obvious how this is going to end, so it's not really a spoiler. Kate and Leopold go back to 1876 New York to live happily ever after.
The biggest problems I had with this movie was the uneasy mixture of science fiction and romance. The exact same story could have been told without involving time-travel. An excellent film in its own right, Splash took the "fish out of water" story and succeeded quite admirably. Here, the science fiction is little more than a gimmick to dress up a rather formulaic story. The most depressing thing of all, however, is Ryan has proven you can quite successfully have a "chick flick" while having an excellent supernatural slant (City of Angels).
KATE AND LEOPOLD gives us a rather unrealistic love story. KATE AND LEOPOLD is just an elegant man sweeping a boring woman off her feet. Why Leopold would want Kate, other than she has Meg Ryan's looks, is beyond me. Another problem with the story, however, is Stuart the inventor. He is by far the most interesting character, and I kept wishing to see more of him. Leiv does a wonderful job with the role, and the most interesting sections are the all-too brief scene of him in 1876 New York and again in the psychiatric ward. The best and most captivating scene deals with Leiv explaining to a nurse that he is not crazy. I won't ruin it for you if you do decide to see the film, but his explanation is absolutely wonderful, and is easily the highlight of the film.
However, he is taken out most of the movie because of an elevator accident, which makes no sense. The logic of the movie is since Leopold did not invent the elevator, then all the shafts would be empty. Well, if there were no elevators to begin with, why would there be shafts? This is just sloppy writing. The next time the writers want to do a cross-genre film, I hope they do a much better job than this film.
I give it a low three maybe a high two for a squandered opportunity of making another good cross-genre film like CITY OF ANGELS and involving an unrealistic love story.