As I watched this movie, I thought about how important the hair is in Meg Ryan movies. Those adorable tousled curls in “City of Angels.” The feisty but vulnerable and equally adorable hairdo in “You’ve Got Mail.” The very serious and hardly adorable at all hairdo in “Courage Under Fire.” And now, in a movie where we need some seriously cute hair, I am sorry to say that it is an unfortunate jaggedy sort of thing that doesn’t work at all.
This is a movie about a modern-day New York woman with no illusions (just a few years ago, she would have been called a “career girl”) who meets up with a 19th century Duke, a guy who has never seen modern technology but who stands up when she leaves the dinner table. It is a perfectly pleasant date movie with a cute premise and attractive stars, but it never quite works because (1) it is very predictable and (2) it is not very believable. Oh, I believe that a 19th century duke could travel through time. I just don’t know how he would fall in love with Meg Ryan in that hairdo.
The hair would not matter quite so much if the movie gave us anything else to work with. Ryan’s character, Kate, is just so brittle and charmless that it takes every smidgen of Ryan’s considerable adorableness quotient and every smidgen of Hugh Jackman’s considerable acting ability to help us believe that Leopold (Jackman’s character) is swept away by her. They make it work, but just barely.
The movie has some nice moments by a first-rate group of sidekicks and supporting actors, including Breckin Meyer as Kate’s actor brother (the lessons he gets from Leopold on how to approach the woman he has a crush on are delightful), Natasha Lyonne as Kate’s assistant, “West Wing’s” Bradley Whitford as Kate’s boss, and Liev Schrieber as Kate’s neighbor.
Parents should know that the movie has brief strong language and a joke about modern-day pooper-scooper laws. Characters drink and smoke. A supervisor’s behavior could be considered predatory, even sexual harassment.
Families who see this movie should talk about how bad experiences can make some people cynical. Why is Kate’s job important in telling us something about her and about the themes of the movie? If you could go back in time, where would you go and who would you like to meet? Which customs of olden days would you like to bring back?
Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy Breakfast at Tiffany’s” (which Kate describes to Leopold) and, of course, a carriage ride through the park!