Kate & Leopold, the fantasy rom-com starring Meg Ryan and Hugh Jackman, still holds up just over twenty years after its 2001 release.
It’s hard to imagine a time in which Hugh Jackman didn’t receive first billing. Aside from the X-Men films, that is. But let’s travel back in time to 2001 during such an era. After working opposite Billy Crystal and Tom Hanks in a number of popular romantic comedies, Meg Ryan acts opposite the Wolverine himself, Hugh Jackman. The two actors have the necessary chemistry that is essential to the genre. Obviously, the genre is quite predictable but the performances elevate the material at hand.
Any film involving time travel can be preposterous to an extent. The only question that matters to me: is it entertaining or will it put me to sleep? When it comes to this film, it’s a truly entertaining film. Honestly, I had completely forgotten that it was directed by James Mangold! Years later, Hugh Jackman and Liev Schreiber would reunite as siblings in X-Men Origins: Wolverine.
His Grace Leopold Alexis Elijah Walker Thomas Gareth Mountbatten, 3rd Duke of Albany (Hugh Jackman) finds himself going from 1876 to 2001 after following Stuart Besser (Liev Schreiber) into a time portal at the Great East River Bridge. Like with any man-out-of-time films, the screenplay goes for the obvious jokes. The irony is that Leopold is a scientist himself, having invented the elevator in this universe. If you want to look up the history of elevators, have it it but I will not dive into it here. Anyway, Stuart lives one floor above his ex-girlfriend, Kate McKay (Meg Ryan). When Kate hears commotion upstairs, she goes to check it out and the rest is history. Of course, Kate does not buy into his being a Duke from 1876. It is not until later in which she realizes that he is for real.
By following Stuart into the future, Leopold changes the timeline. For one, the film depicts him as the inventor of the elevator. As such, it’s weird to see high-rise buildings with elevator shafts and no elevators. Of course, Leopold will return to his proper timeline the following week but it’s one of those plot holes that make zero sense. If there are no longer any elevators, why are there high-rise buildings with shafts? They’re certainly not supposed to be there for decoration, right? Okay, I’m moving on before I start spending a ridiculous amount of time on thinking about this. But anyway, if James Mangold finds himself reading my comments, I’d love to know the answer!
Let’s discuss something that isn’t in the film. Miramax made cuts to the film following the initial press screening in 2001. It’s not one of those cuts that drastically rewrites the film’s plot. No, it’s references to what could be tantamount to an incestuous four-year relationship between Stuart and Kate. Stuart is Leopold’s great-great-grandson. What this means is, by basis of the film’s ending, Kate is Stuart’s great-great-grandmother. Incest is one of those cases that is still seen as taboo and it’s certainly a turn-off on the screen (Luke and Leia, anyone?). One would think that Stuart would be familiar with his own family history, right? Is this a case of keeping a close watch on Kate and making sure she goes back in time to fulfil her destiny? Personally, the film works so much better after the cuts.
In the film, Leopold’s uncle, Millard (Paxton Whitehead) lives at 1 Hanover Square. Historically, this is impossible because it was home to the New York Cotton Exchange and other businesses. It was not a residential property during this time. Audiences just have to suspend disbelief to buy into Millard living there. Oh, well.
It’s always amazing to watch films and notice actors before they breakout in their careers. Comedian Kristen Schaal has a minor role as Miss Tree. Viola Davis has a cameo role as the police offer who catches Leopold in the act of not picking up after the dog. Both roles were small enough to where neither actors are listed during the film’s opening credits.
Kate & Leopold may have some plot holes but Meg Ryan and Hugh Jackman are able to leave us entertained.
DIRECTOR: James Mangold
SCREENWRITERS: James Mangold and Steven Rogers
CAST: Meg Ryan, Hugh Jackman, Liev Schreiber, Breckin Meyer, Natasha Lyonne, Bradley Whitford, Paxton Whitehead, Spalding Gray, Josh Stamberg, Matthew Sussman, Charlotte Ayanna, and Philip Bosco
Miramax released Kate & Leopold in theaters on December 25, 2001.
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