Kate and Leopold

Kate and Leopold (12)

SHOULD any further evidence be required that Hugh Jackman is The Next Big Thing, then look no further than his performance in Kate and Leopold.

A perfect combination of grace, poise, charm and handsome, old-fashioned courtliness, Jackman’s performance as a 19th century aristo pitched forward through time into 21st century New York is one to savour.

The plot is a simple one. Inventor Stuart Besser (Liev Schreiber) concocts a time machine that takes him back 100 years or so to an era of gentlemen, ladies, horses and carriages and the American industrial revolution.

Among the great and good he comes across is Leopold, the third Duke of Albany (Jackman), a bored and impoverished aristocrat who needs a rich wife to support the family name.

One of the country’s most eligible bachelors, Leopold is unimpressed with the fillies being offered to him. When his path crosses Besser’s and he is inadvertently rocketed through time to the present day he finds himself at close quarters with Kate, Besser’s ex-girlfriend (Meg Ryan).

Kate isn’t on the lookout for a man, certainly not some barmy fruitcake who speaks, acts and emotes like something out of a Sherlock Holmes story. Yet, little by little, she begins to suspect that Leopold might just be the real McCoy. Exactly where he came from, on the other hand, is a mystery…

“You look like some psychotic escapee from a Renaissance fair,” says Schreiber at one point.

A winning throwback to the classic romantic comedies of the past, Kate and Leopold succeeds in every facet of its construction save for one: the casting of Meg Ryan as the heroine. Almost ten years older than her beau, she has surely come to the end of her reign as the ditzy bachelor girl and her act is becoming wearing.

Yet, her she is once again, trotting out the same performance she has been giving since the late Eighties and seemingly content to do so as long as there are a succession of leading men available to shore her up.

Not unusual, then, that she is completely blown off the screen by Jackman whose effortless ease playing the courteous, virtuous and honest fish out of water brings to mind another hit rom-com – Crocodile Dundee.

Kate and Leopold is an absolute winner – a gold-plated romance and utterly fabulous, if preposterous, entertainment. Women everywhere will love its unabashed romanticism (not to mention Mr Jackman) while the playing of its principals and the love affair across time will bring a lump to most throats.

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