Kate & Leopold on DVD
In 1876, his family fortune depleted, the Duke of Albany (Hugh Jackman) comes to New York at the behest of his father to find a wealthy woman to marry. The duke, Leopold, is inventive and ambitious, and although he doesn't believe in true love, he doesn't want to marry for money.
Once upon another time, in the present, an ambitious advertising executive named Kate (Meg Ryan) is very lonely. Her scientist ex-boyfriend, Stuart (Liev Schreiber), finds a portal in the space-time continuum off the Brooklyn Bridge. At the unveiling of the Bridge in 1876, Stuart, who has traveled back in time for research and who looks somewhat conspicuous, catches Leopold's attention. Darting back to the portal, Stuart accidentally takes the duke along with him back to the present. Kate lives on the floor below Stuart. So the love story begins.
Kate, always a realist, doesn't believe Stuart's claims about time travel, or that Leopold is really a duke. But she does fall for Leopold's eloquence, chivalry, and ability to bring out her femininity. A career woman, Kate understates her gender in order to get aheadeven her wardrobe is extremely masculine. Leopold appreciates Kate's beauty and brains, and sees her as his intellectual equal.
A side plot involving Kate's kid brother, Charlie (Breckin Meyer), a struggling actor who believes Leo is simply a meticulous method actor, provides a good foil for Leopold as well as some laughs. These scenes are funnier than those that focus on Leopold's dismay at our modern world of flush toilets, pooper-scooper laws, etc.
Ryan is spunky and believable, but Jackman steals the show. He pulls off nobility with a natural finesse, making Leo the most likable character in the film. He also has the best lines. "Life is not solely comprised of tasks but tastes . . . " Here's a man who understands gracious living.
While time itself is this couple's biggest obstacle, with Leo having only a week until the portal re-opens, the theme of selling out is also prominent. Leopold faces selling out by marrying rich, but he still criticizes Kate for advertising products she doesn't like or support.
The DVD offers the original theatrical version and the Director's Cut, which has a few extra bits worth watching, including a scene in which Kate surveys an audience at a screening for a cheesy love flick. The scene reveals her cynicism, and why she's so late coming home the evening she first sees Leopold. For once, the deleted scenes aren't extraneousthey help tie the story together and further develop the characters. The one scene that could detract from the plot is one in which Kate realizes that Stuart is Leopold's great-great-grandson. The director didn't want to dwell on the implications and wisely sidestepped that issue.
The "On the Set" featurette is full of actors and crew members gushing about each other, but the interviews provide good background information. Kate & Leopold has the feel of an older movie, and director James Mangold admits to being a fan of romantic comedies from the 1930s and 1940s. He also reveals that his aim wasn't to make 1876 seem better than today, or vice versa. On the production side, special effects, such as the jumps off the Brooklyn Bridge, are explained. Other bonus features include the feature commentary, a photo gallery, and Sting's music video for "Until."
The Dolby Digital 5.1 sound is shown off by an especially loud and engulfing rainstorm, the bustling sounds of New York City, and music. The dialogue and directional effects are clear and distinct. And there's a surprising amount of low-frequency energy for a romantic comedy.
The anamorphic 1.85:1 picture is for the most part clean and crisp, although in some of the longer shots there is a noticeable softening of the image. The lighting is sometimes atmospheric, especially in the 1876 scenes, partly because much in the Old New York scenes had to be constructed or digitally created. This stylization gives those scenes and some others a gritty look.
Kate & Leopold isn't a masterpiece, but it's an unusual and enjoyable romantic comedy set at the slower pace of an older movie. All of the actors give solid performances, but Hugh Jackman alone is entertaining enough. If you can suspend your disbelief about the technicalities and paradoxes of time travel, it's easy to sit back and enjoy this urban fairy tale.