on 9 January 2003
Hands down, this romantic comedy is a Hugh Jackman vehicle, as he totally steals the show from Meg Ryan. Jackman plays the role of the Duke of Albany, Leopold Mountbatten, an English nobleman visiting his uncle in New York in 1876. At his uncle's behest, Leopold is to find a rich socialite to marry, so that he may replenish the family's depleted coffers.
While at a ball in his uncle's New York house, awash with rich and eager heiresses, he notices a stranger who had earlier caught his attention. He follows the stranger and finds himself in the year 2001, as he falls through a portal in time. Landing in the apartment of Stuart Besser (Liev Schreiber), the stranger whom he had followed, he soon meets Kate McKay (Meg Ryan), Stuart's former girlfriend of four years and a modern day Everywoman. Let the games begin.
What follows is nothing earth shattering. In fact, it is pretty predictable. Leopold and Kate fall in love, though the big question is why, as there is nothing to suggest why they should. Meg Ryan does her usual Meg Ryan thing, though she is starting to get a bit little long in the tooth to be playing the brash, cutesy ingenue. She is, in fact, getting to be quite tiresome in these sorts of roles, as she plays them all exactly the same, making them virtually indistinguishable one from the other. She needs to extend her range, before her adoring public stops adoring her.
Jackman, however, does a star turn with his gently effective and ingratiating portrayal of Leopold. He is simply sensational. Charming, handsome, and warm, with a light British accent that rings true, he is totally believable as a chivalrous gent from another time. Jackman totally upstages Ryan without meaning to do so. It is a good thing that he does. Were he not to have done so, the film would most likely have totally tanked. Clearly, Hugh Jackman is big time, leading man material.
Liev Schreiber is unappealing as the film's erstwhile time traveler and Kate's ex-lover, Stuart Besser, who, it turns out, is the great, great grandson of the Duke. Moreover, it is not believable that Stuart and Kate would ever have dated, much less have been lovers for four years, as there is no chemistry between them. Still, it is more believable than the relationship that blossoms between Leopold and Kate. The happy ending also makes Stuart's and Kate's former relationship somewhat distasteful, if not downright incestuous, in retrospect.
The rest of the supporting cast is fine with an excellent performance by Breckin Meyer in the role of Charlie McKay, Kate's somewhat goofy, but lovable, cute, younger brother. Bradley Whitford of West Wing fame also gives a winning performance as J.J. Camden, Kate's smarmy boss, who ultimately has second thoughts about what constitutes professional behavior and lets the cream rise to the top, so to speak.
All in all, this is a moderately entertaining film, all but forgettable, but for the memorable performance of Hugh Jackman.