Movie Review by Kris Griffiths
Starring: Meg Ryan, Hugh Jackman, Liev Schreiber, Breckin Meyer, Natasha Lyonne
Director: James Mangold
What a premise for a romantic comedy. Kate (Meg Ryan) is a hapless, luckless-in-love advertising exec. Her former boyfriend and neighbour (Liev Schreiber) has discovered a time portal and has drawn Leopold, Duke of Albany (Hugh Jackman), back into the 21st century. Thus the stage is set for Leopold to show Kate the true meaning of romance – something, it is pointed out by Leopold’s advice to Kate’s younger brother, Charlie (Breckin Meyer) – that has ultimately lost its meaning in contemporary society.
Everything about this film points to a charming romantic comedy: Meg Ryan; a dashing lead; ample fish-out-of-water humour; the predictable ending and even some endearing soulful advice to the latent romantic in us all. So why can only one word be used to describe this film? Disappointing. Let’s start with Meg herself. Forget the cliche that this is all she does, we knew she was the ‘Rom Com Queen’ already. Certainly earlier and alternative roles have shown there’s the range but maybe finally in settling with what she does best the complacency has set in. In such a staple role, she’s normally a pleasure to watch but here her performance is lacklustre and unconvincing. Then there’s the story. Ironically, it seems to collapse under its own cleverness. The predictability of the inevitable romance withstanding – after all that’s why we’d go and see this – there are so many holes and unanswered questions that, in an effort to be original, ultimately the writers could never have sated everyone’s inquisitiveness and we’re left frustrated. It has its moments, sure, but then there are so many bits we really want to see but never do and even the feelgood factor, the match-making ending after the obvious obstacles that need to be crossed, seems tiresome, almost cheap. You could leave the cinema fifteen minutes from the end and still figure out what happens.
In spite of this, there is one very fine reason to see this film. Hugh Jackman is marvellous as the aforementioned dashing lead. He plays the English gent to a tea (pardon the pun) but it’s more than simply a convincing turn as 19 th century aristocracy. He doesn’t even have to say anything to be completely compelling on screen. There’s an exemplary scene where he is roped in to save one of Meg’s client’s commercials and delivers a screen test that is clearly the mark of a gifted actor.
In a nutshell, here is film that promises so much – history, fantasy, comedy, romance, adventure – yet delivers so little, with a potential that just manages to miss the mark. To coin a phrase usually reserved to describe English sporting achievement: after a valiant effort, it manages to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.