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Kate and Leopold

Kate and Leopold has its faults, but as everyone who's ever sighed over a Disney movie knows, it's awfully hard to resist a good fairy tale — especially when Prince Charming looks and talks like Hugh Jackman. Jackman, who first tried Hollywood romantic comedy on for size in Someone Like You, is much more fun here as the titular Leopold, a restless 19th-century English duke who winds up in 2001 Manhattan thanks to a convenient time portal and the schemes of his modern-day descendant, Stuart (Liev Schreiber). Between cute (if trite) fish-out-of-water scenes, Leopold meets and falls for Kate McKay (Meg Ryan), a marketing whiz who's so focused on her career that — per Tinseltown regulation code 7, paragraph 1B — she doesn't have much in the way of a social life. Gradually, the skeptical, cynical Kate lets Leopold melt her defenses with his gallant chivalry, which leaves them with just one tiny problem: deciding which century to live in. (Don't worry; it all ties up very nicely with a good "happily ever after" ending.) Kate and Leopold is pure escapist entertainment, and on that level it works. But there's something missing (besides a full explanation of Kate's real relationship to Stuart...), and her name is Meg Ryan. Ryan has played this character so many times before that her heart just isn't in it; every hair toss and quizzical look comes straight out of her repertoire. Meanwhile, Jackman upstages her in nearly all of their scenes — his Leopold is engaging, charming, and utterly dashing, and you can tell he's giving the part his all. (Director/co-writer James Mangold absolutely uses that charisma to the film's advantage, but he's smart enough to poke a little fun at it, too; Leopold's melt-worthy fake-butter ad is one of the movie's brightest spots.) There's never any question about why Kate falls for Leopold — he brings grace and gentleness into her harried life — but it's hard to see exactly why he falls for her ... besides the fact that she's Meg Ryan, of course. Miramax's goodies-heavy DVD offers two versions of the film — the original theatrical cut and Mangold's director's cut, which adds a few scenes here and there, including one fairly significant shot near the beginning. Both look and sound great; the anamorphic transfer (1.85:1) is strong, and the Dolby Digital 5.1 audio is crisp and clear (other options include English and Spanish subtitles and French dubbing for the director's cut). Mangold contributes a genial, philosophy-heavy commentary track, as well as optional comments on the disc's seven deleted scenes, only one of which (Bradley Whitford's smarmy awards-banquet speech) is really worth watching. A standard behind-the-scenes featurette, another on costumes, a gallery of still photos and production sketches, Sting's "Until" music video, and a bevy of trailers round out the list of extras. Keep-case.
—Betsy Bozdech

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