Our rating: 4 out of 5
Time travel stories are as common as they come. Often predictable, more than often touching, and generally at the least interesting, stories like Somewhere in Time have become cult favorites. Kate & Leopold is the next box-office blockbuster that combines romance with comedy and some great lessons in responsibility, love, and treating one another with respect. It's a gem, slightly flawed but beautiful by its own merit.
Leopold Walker (Hugh Jackman) is the Third Duke of Albany and a future inventor. He's been working on a contraption to take people from one floor to the next, a lift-like apparatus. He's also an eligible, dashing, handsome and polite bachelor into which every available woman in 19th century New York would like to sink her claws. Unfortunately, orphaned he's left to the care of his money-grubbing Uncle, who demands that he marry well for the benefit of their depleting financial status. The pickings are slim. Time is growing short. And Leopold finds himself more contented at the grand opening of the Brooklyn Bridge than preparing for his engagement ball. Once there, he finds a curious chap who's sneaking about, writing things down and putting a strange apparatus up to his eye that omits a tiny flash of light. Following him through the crowd, Leopold looses him in the city streets... but then he appears again at the ball. This time the Duke is able to follow him all the way to the newly built bridge. Fearing that the man is going to jump, Leopold risks his life and they both plunge from the heights... into a modern-day New York.
Kate (Meg Ryan) is the girl who lives in a broken-down apartment directly beneath the rooms of her ex-boyfriend Stuart, who seems to be making a lot of noise this evening. He gives her some silly story about finding a time portal and accidentally bringing back with him the Third Duke of Albany. Of course Kate doesn't believe his story... but Leopold is polite, distinguished, terrified of modern conveniences, and charming. How? Why? Kate's newly returned brother, a thespian, says that Leopold is a great actor truly into his role. Kate's not so sure... particularly when Stuart mysteriously disappears and leaves her to look after his fascinating houseguest. Leopold is shocked and horrified at the modern ideals and attitudes, particularly toward dating, relationships, and manners. He's accustomed to standing when a woman enters a room, writing her a letter disclosing his intentions, and chaperoning dinner dates... something that becomes rather sticky when he intrudes on a business dinner with her boss.
This film is witty, romantic, sweet, and utterly hilarious. It has some of the best comic lines I've ever heard, particularly when reverencing relationships. It's also fantastic to see the difference between our laid-back, lax-moral and crude society and the world from which Leopold hails... an entirely different era in which little things are taken for granted that would seem super-polite today. In this aspect, it's a valuable film that teaches honor, chivalry, good manners, and propriety in relationships. It combines a gorgeous 19th century setting with all the modern convinces of our lives today. It tackles honor, in particular, with a strong grip... and comes out with a smile on its face. Leopold in particular takes great pleasure in merely living... he introduces Kate to a side of life she's never seen before. He teaches her to slow down and take it one day at a time. I fell in love with him for his manners, his charm, and his genuine respect for women. He's not chauvinist, but truly a gentleman. He could have any modern girl eating out of his hand simply because he treats every woman like a princess... not just the one he's romantically interested in.
What makes it so sweet is that he passes these tips on to Kate's brother, chastising him for treating his would-be date so poorly. For a PG13 film, Kate & Leopold is surprisingly free of problems. One muffled f-word makes up the entire rating; there's very little violence (nothing graphic), only minor sensuality, and a spattering of language. Unfortunately, these include two uses of GD, and four abuses of Jesus' name. A dog poops on the sidewalk, and a hilarious dialogue follows in which Leopold is asked to pick it up. (He "respectfully refuses" and is ticketed by the police.) Kate's boss at work is obviously interested in her sexually and makes some verbal advances over dinner, in which Leopold comes to her defense. (He says that "courting a woman in one's employ is nothing more than a serpentine effort to transform a lady into a whore.") Stuart snickers in the opening scene over a double innuendo that was innocent dialogue in Leopold's day.
One thing that did bother me a little bit was that although no sex was involved, Leopold stays the night with Kate. After tucking her in, she asks him to stay and he crawls in beside her. The nice ideal that's portrayed through that is that relationships don't always have to be about sex, but since the Bible teaches that we have no business sleeping with someone who isn't our spouse, it slightly sours the milk. But overall, the good far outweighs the bad.