Review by Simon Bell
"You can't live a fairytale," says the corporate ladder climbing
company exec, around which one half of this tolerably winsome romance is strung
That is, presumably, until an English Duke, too charming even for Jane Austen, falls out of the 19th Century and lands in your next door neighbour's apartment.
A vehicle for Meg Ryan and Hugh Jackman, as two lovers separated by polar-world views and an entire century, this film sees our two leads flesh out the roles of Kate McKay - a true 21st Century woman who likes it straight up, no chaser - and the impoverished third Duke of Albany, Leopold, a charming bachelor of the late 1800s accustomed to standing when a woman leaves the table.
While career and social expectations loom, each has grown cynical about the very notion of falling in love. But stumbling across a time portal off the south-side of New York's Brooklyn Bridge, Leopold finds himself thrust unexpectedly into the present day.
It is here (you guessed it) that the potential for an old fashioned affaire de coeur is ignited. While the fanciful set-up allows for a bit of fun, as the time travelling Duke tries to marry the customs and styles of Victoriana with the social behaviour and apparatus of the Digital Age, the gag quotient is, to coin a Leopold-ism, vexingly low.
Just as Sylvester Stallone was in director James Mangold's Copland, Leopold is a fish out of water battling against the madness of the Big Apple. But the best laugh comes when he unwittingly turns on the TV to be greeted with a surreal scene from the seminal Sixties show, The Prisoner.
Replete with references to Breakfast at Tiffany's and lone violinists playing aside rooftop candlelit dinners, it's evident Mangold is trying to recapture the romantic magic of a Howard Hawks or Frank Capra.
While not managing that feat, the partnership on which the film hinges does work. But we are talking queen of rom-com Ryan and rising leading man Jackman, after all.
Affable support comes in the form of Liev Schreiber as the ex-boyfriend and progressive scientist while Breckin Meyer, formerly of Go and Road Trip, is likeable as goofy brother Charlie. (There's an amusing play on the modern dating game when he is advised by Leopold to tell a girl he fancies, that she has 'made an impression' on him with her 'gracefulness').
Meanwhile production designer Mark Friedberg's impressive Brooklyn Bridge and Manhattan of the 1870s is a blend of nice CGI and an actual scale recreation of one of the bridge's bases.
In the end then, as syrup-coated contemporary fables go, you could get worse than the cute and rather twee Kate and Leopold.