Kate & Leopold Review

Wait for it… wait for it… They end up together!

Oh, but you say, “It’s about the journey and how they end up together!” Fine. They hate each other, they fall in love, there’s a falling out over some butter (!), and they end up together after a madcap chase to a time vortex. It’s like every romantic comedy ever, just with butter. Bad butter, but still.

Okay, so the time vortex thing counts for something too, Liev Schreiber’s character discovering the secret to time itself, which just happens to be minutes away from his dainty New York apartment. How convenient. Even more convenient, he happens to warp to a point in time seconds away from Hugh Jackman pronouncing his love for a women he never met.

Hindsight is 20/20 as they say, so seeing Hugh Jackman of the past fumble with a can of shaving cream has its charm. This isn’t long after his first run in X-Men, before his uber-popularity boon. Being stunned by a television and receiving a fine for not picking up dog droppings, if nothing else, shows how far he has come. The mild grins elicited here are hardly career defining.

Kate & Leopold must think its audience is stupid, at least beyond the romance. The idea of time travel must be so confounding, that viewers need the pieces made for them. Jackman plays the inventor of the elevator, and shockingly, in the present day, elevators cease to function. It’s a fact the film must play through constant forced conversation in the first act, before dropping the whole idea until it’s resurrected in the third. You know, just in case the idea didn’t sink in from the, “Hey look! An elevator!” hint in the first 10-minutes.

The film also role plays, although in no distinctive manner. Jackman plays the role of the 30-something sans romance, and despite the myriad of other problems surrounding his family, the wife is all that matters. That’s the romantic comedy cliché that can be played by either sex. It’s not that different from Meg Ryan, the overworked 30-something who can’t hold down a relationship because work, work, work. It’s not so much opposite attracts so much as it is borderline offensive archetypes do.

Kate & Leopold is harmless fluff if nothing else, created to pander to an audience who finds the idea of Meg Ryan and Hugh Jackman hooking up irresistible. It does that well; even the cynical can give it an ounce of credit for that. The film takes its time to develop a romance, even if it inches close to the two hour mark, just barely over that in this director’s cut. Then, closure comes in seconds, as if the film knew it was breaching the typical attention span for this mindless drivel.

Ryan plays an advertising exec, the very person who would tell a movie studio that their film is running long, or dissect audience participation data. She even does it the first time we meet her, lashing out at a droll romantic comedy. There’s little doubt that character, in the flesh, did much the same for Kate & Leopold, only in this case, she threw her hands up while exclaiming that it’s Hugh Jackman and Meg Ryan. “What do you need me for?” she said, and at that point, the studio knew they won.

Movie ★★☆☆☆ 

The Hollywood box office in the flesh @ 1:28:57

Lionsgate shoves this early century piece onto Blu-ray with little care, utilizing what appears to be an old, dated master likely crafted for HD cable broadcasts. The encode, despite a prime bitrate if number are your thing, languishes over this miserable scan. Underneath the bulky, noisy, and rarely controlled grain structure is extensive smearing. The image warps when asked to deal with subtle motion, probably a result of light layered DNR. The grain sticks up due to the mild sharpening.

It’s one of those cases where you wonder why they bothered. After all, despite the attempts to fix and/or hide this limiting source, the end result isn’t any better for it. The (very) slight halos only serve to mar the inherently soft image further, a display of such lowly HD, that hardly an ounce of high-fidelity detail can escape the frame. From the hazy interior of the past, the jarringly rendered effects of late 1800’s New York, and the dullness of then modern day New York, Kate & Leopold doesn’t dazzle.

Early signs of color grading orange-up the past, robbing it of the period costuming, or at least the full effect. Flesh tones are burnt and candlelight feels more like a bonfire in the center of the room. The modern day stuff is at least able to show a little restraint, with natural, pleasing primaries and little overzealous saturation.

The print used retains condition, a mild instance of judder and a visible speck of dirt (or two) hardly a downer. Black levels disappoint more than a few times, lacking weight or heft. They feel marginalized and murky. Contrast can blossom as well, and at times, with too much zest. It can blot out parts of the image when pushing from the frame at a peak. At one point, it even goes far enough to wipe out the grain structure. Bizarre, and careless.

Video ★★☆☆☆ 

Granted a DTS-HD treatment, there are signs of age and imperfection within the sound, much of it in the low-end. As a thunderstorm rolls in overhead early in the first act, the bass comes across muddy and loose, lacking the precision or tightness expected of a film a meager 11-years aged. What it produces in a rumble it lacks in focus. The same can be said for a car that drives by as Jackman is first introduced into the modern city, blaring bass from a stereo that is equally uncontrolled.

Audio design here isn’t offering much, least of all imaging. The above mentioned city reveal, with sirens and cars honking is clearly meant to overwhelm Jackman, yet the moment is sedate in terms of letting the sound wander. Stereos split wider than the rears, the latter barely noticed in the panic. Even amidst the antiqued lifestyle of old, with classical music and party guests, the track has little respect for gusto or the surrounds even as opportunity is presented.

Dialogue is firm, losing a little fidelity during a street chat with Jackman and Breckin Meyer (1:02:12). There’s an underlying layer of static, the only instance where either age or damage is noticed.

Audio ★★★☆☆ 

Director James Mangold provides a commentary track, carried over from the DVD. Said commentary will also be optional over seven deleted scenes. A making-of featurette comes from an era where studios were still trying to figure out how to present this information, and it’s as dated as you can imagine. A featurette on the costumes is even worse. Trailers and a music video finish the disc off in a, maybe appropriately so, aged style.

Extras ★★☆☆☆ 

Full disclosure: This Blu-ray was provided to us for review. This has not affected the editorial process. For more information on how we handle review material, please visit our about us page to learn more.