"Kate and Leopold" continues Meg Ryan's featured status in the romantic comedy genre well. While it doesn't rank as her most enjoyable effort (while most would probably say "When Harry Met Sally", I'd go with "French Kiss"), it shows that Ryan can still pick 'em: the film is funny, sweet, genuinely romantic and well-acted.
The film stars Ryan as Kate McKay, a market research executive who lives in New York in a beautiful old apartment building. Her neighbor and former boyfriend is Stuart (Liev Schriber), an intelligent guy who has managed to stumble upon an opening in time. Falling through, he finds himself walking and talking in 1876. On the way back, he accidentally brings a stowaway, the Duke of Albany (Hugh Jackman).
The film does not miss the opportunity to go through the usual comedy formula. However, director James Mangold ("Girl, Interrupted") has a light touch with the material and does a fine job skipping over the ridiculous. Mangold hops over any detail about the time travel, clearly realizing that not focusing on it would aid suspension of disbelief. He also earns praise for keeping the film dry and free of sappiness. "Kate and Leopold" also has a few other tasks to keep itself busy before the predictable ending: Jackman's entry into modern society gets some solid laughs - while not laugh-out-loud funny, Jackman's performance makes the material at least moderately amusing (certainly much better than the awful time-travel comedy "Just Visiting").
As for Ryan, well, Meg Ryan has done this role several times before and clearly, is an expert. What I particularly enjoyed about this effort is that Ryan is a bit less sunny in this role. It's no better or worse than her comedic tantrums (she only does one arms-in-the-air Meg Ryan dance) that she threw in other roles, but it's at least nice to see a change. Mangold also brings two strong actors in supporting roles: Breckin Meyer plays Kate's actor brother, while Natasha Lyonne ("American Pie", "Slums of Beverly Hills") is Kate's assistant. Both are sharp and funny, continuing to display their terrific comedic timing.
"Kate and Leopold" runs nearly two hours, which is a good chunk more time than these films usually run. Surprisingly, I rarely felt bored by the film, which spends this additional time filling out the characters and story nicely (there's a few additional moments in the "director's cut" that work well, too). While deleting a couple of minutes might have aided the pacing, this wasn't really much of a concern.
Technically, the film is also superb, with beautiful cinematography, attractive locations, fine production designs and impressive costumes. At the end, I didn't feel I'd watched anything groundbreaking, but the film was at least intelligent, good-natured, well-acted and nicely written. While it did well in theaters last Winter, I'd think it would have gained more of an audience had it not been in the crowded Christmas marketplace.
This DVD edition offers the film's theatrical cut as well as a "director's cut" (the film reportedly underwent editing in the last minute before its release). The theatrical cut runs 1:58, while the "director's cut" runs 2:02. While a few minutes doesn't sound like a lot, I did like the additional moments that I spotted (such as a very early scene with Ryan's character in a test screening for a new movie, which serves as a good intro for her character and a cameo for this film's director) and thought they made a positive difference.
VIDEO: Miramax Home Video presents "Kate and Leopold" in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen. The picture quality is generally very good, yet there are a few little faults with the presentation that keep it from reaching the next level. Sharpness and detail are consistently pleasing throughout - while the film seemed to have an intentionally slightly soft look, the film still remained crisp and well-defined. Several scenes on the New York City streets are exceptional looking, with nice depth and background detail.
A few little concerns appeared infrequently. A tiny instance or two of pixelation were spotted, but this was hardly an issue. A very minimal edge enhancement was rarely seen and only briefly apparent. The print used remained crisp and clean throughout, with very little grain and one or two specks.
The film's bright, vibrant color palette was enjoyably offered throughout, appearing warm and well-saturated, with no smearing. Overall, while not a flawless transfer, "Kate and Leopold" looks very nice. The "director's cut" showed no difference in image quality.
SOUND: "Kate and Leopold" is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1. This being a romantic comedy, the film doesn't really make much use of audio. Aside from a few instances of slight ambience or score, the surrounds remain quiet or very subtle. The majority of the audio is front-heavy, as the score, minor ambience and sound effects, as well as dialogue are clear and balanced.
MENUS: Elgant, although non-animated main and sub menus.
Commentary: This is a commentary from director James Mangold. The commentary is available on both versions of the film. Browsing through the track, I found it to be a fairly involving track, although Mangold sometimes falls into the trap of discussing what's going on on-screen. Still, the director contributes a lot of enjoyable analysis about the story and the film process. It's a fine commentary track, but I guess I would have liked a little more behind-the-scenes discussion about the production and a little less focus on the story. There also didn't seem to be much discussion (that I noticed) in terms of the director's cut, about why scenes were deleted from the theatrical release.
Deleted Scenes: 7 deleted scenes are offered, with optional commentary from director James Mangold. The scenes are enjoyable, but they were deleted rightly due to length.
On The Set: A 14-minute featurette, this piece alternates between being promotional and slightly interesting. The interviews mostly tell how great the cast was or the story, but there's some decent behind-the-scenes footage (especially the clips of how the visual effects were done) and a few funny moments.
Sneak Peeks: "Sneak Peak" trailers for "Serendipity", "The Others", "Strictly Ballroom", "Chocolat", "The Importance of Being Earnest" and "Pinochio". Ads for the "Kate and Leopold" soundtrack and Miramax films are also included in this section.
Also: Photo gallery, short featurette on the film's costumes and music video for Sting's "Until".
Final Thoughts: A warm and well-acted romantic comedy, "Kate and Leopold" makes superb entertainment out of some familiar elements. Miramax has delivered a very nice DVD edition, with pleasant audio and good video quality, along with a few enjoyable supplements and the director's cut of the film. Recommended.
The Film ***