Rated PG-13 - Running Time: 2:01 - Released 12/25/01

What can one say about a feelgood romance starring Meg Ryan, the queen of feelgood romances, and written by Steven Rogers, whose output includes sappy tear-jerkers like Stepmom and Hope Floats? Ryan, an adequate actress who is quickly becoming associated with films that don't require acting, can do this type of role in her sleep (or Sleepless, for that matter), and one's enjoyment of her work is based primarily on whether one likes the one-note character she creates for these films. With Rogers's clever but predictable text, and under the direction of James Mangold (Girl, Interrupted), who co-wrote the script, Ryan creates yet another modern professional woman who falls in love with a guy she doesn't like at first (played by Hugh Jackman). The main difference is that this time, instead of being from across the continent, or on the other end of her computer connection, or on the other side of the life/death boundary, he's from 1876. Talk about robbing the cradle.

The film starts in 19th-century New York City, which is the vacation home of Hugh's British character, Leopold Mountbatten, 3rd Duke of Albany. A charming, bored bachelor not unlike Rupert Everett's Lord Goring in An Ideal Husband, Leopold is in no hurry to get married, especially to a stupid, wealthy American girl. Everyone knows rich girls don't go. An avid follower of science and technology (he's even working on a new invention called the elevator), Leopold is more interested in things like the opening ceremony of the Brooklyn Bridge, where he notices an anachronistic-looking man (Liev Schreiber) using a pocket camera with internal flash. Knowing full well that Magicubes have not even been invented yet, Leopold follows the man until they fall through a portal in the space-time continuum and land precisely where they were, but 125 years later. Suddenly stranded in present day NYC, Leopold learns that his tour guide is scientist/inventor Stuart Besser, who has perfected a method for time travel in which, if one jumps off the bridge at exactly the right moment, one will be transported through time rather than the traditional result of being squashed like a bloody pancake in the street.

Stuart introduces Leopold to his neighbor and ex-girlfriend Kate (Ryan), and then promptly falls down an elevator shaft (get it?), so he is conveniently out of the picture for most of the picture. While stranded in Stuart's apartment, Leopold meets and befriends Kate's brother Charlie (Breckin Meyer), learns how to operate the TV remote, and starts freaking everyone out with his proper behavior and outdated sensibilities. Predictably, he sweeps the initially skeptical Kate off her feet, showing up her lecherous boss (Bradley Whitford) and teaching Charlie how to make it with babes. Then just as he and Kate are about to jump in the sack, Stuart reappears and tells him he has to go home. Dang—nothing kills the mood in a sexual escapade like traveling 1¼ centuries back in time.

Ryan and Jackman are adequate in this frothy romance, but nothing more. Their romantic chemistry is practically nonexistent, but they handle their characterizations well and know how to kiss. Otherwise, this is an average, workmanlike production, virtually indistinguishable from any other example of the pat, easily digested, box-office-successful formula faithfully churned out by Hollywood every day of the year. ***

Copyright 2002 by John R. McEwen and The Republican

Current | Archives | Oscars | About | E-Mail