Kate McKay (Meg Ryan) is a newly single ad executive living in New York City. Kate's ex-boyfriend (and quasi-scientist) Stuart (Liev Schreiber) lives in the apartment directly above her. After hearing mysterious thumps coming from Stuart's apartment one night Kate climbs up the fire escape to investigate only to find Leopold (Hugh Jackman) a 19th century English Duke sprawled out on the couch. Turns out Stuart has discovered a portal through which he can travel back through time and has accidentally brought back Leopold his great-great grandfather--and future elevator inventor. Although there is the prerequisite flushing toilet wonderment scene the film thankfully does not dwell on Leopold's marvel of 21st century technology. Kate and Leopold (predictably) fall in love but must inevitably deal with the fact that they are from different centuries. In a bizarre plot twist Stuart discovers that Kate actually belongs in 1867 and is destined to marry Leopold.
Hugh Jackman (X-Men Swordfish) shows that he can go from playing a mutant to a duke with relative ease. Jackman's speeches don't lack conviction even if they lack historical accuracy and Hugh definitely brings added zing to the character then what was written. Meg Ryan (Proof of Life) on the other hand plays Meg Ryan the same character she seems to play in every movie. There is no doubt that Ryan's character is sweet and likeable but she seems have pigeonholed herself into playing these leading women that are always single invariably bright and consistently clumsy. Apart from her hair being a few inches longer Meg is basically playing the same character she portrayed in You've Got Mail and Sleepless in Seattle. Liev Schreiber was well cast as the spastic scientist but his character is so rudimentary that his discovery of time travel is simply too implausible. Aside from Jackman the only other impressive performance is from Breckin Meyer who plays Charlie Kate's younger wannabe-actor brother.
If the story for Kate & Leopold sounds explicitly familiar that's because it has already been done twice this year with Just Visiting and Black Knight. Originally slated for release on Valentine's Day in 2002 the film was pushed up to Dec. 21 but later pushed back to Dec. 25 as Miramax decided to take the film back to the editing room for a little extra work. Apparently the gigantic plot holes like the fact that Kate and Leopold's marriage would make Stuart their great-great grandson had initially gone unnoticed by the studio. Writer/director James Mangold should have done a bit more research with the screenplay not to mention metaphysics. The time traveling bit is never really explained properly and turns into a big white elephant that poses too many problems later on in the film. Added on to the fact that the story has too many problems viewers are also subjected to too many shots of Schreiber's droopy-eyed dog look and Ryan's trademark pout.