Writer-director James Mangold has sampled plenty of different genres during the last few decades: biopic (Walk the Line), Western (3:10 to Yuma), suspense (Identity) and action/drama (Cop Land), to name a few. His sole venture into romantic comedy was 2001's Kate & Leopold, which also threw in a little dash of science fiction for good measure. Our story begins in a picturesque New York home during the 1870s, where Leopold (Hugh Jackman) resents his father's demands that he marry into wealth. It just so happens that Leopold's being watched by Stuart (Liev Schreiber), a 21st century New Yorker who's discovered a small crack in time near the Brooklyn Bridge. One thing leads to another, and Leopold unwittingly ends up in Manhattan circa 2001. Stuart lives in an apartment above his ex-girlfriend, Kate (Meg Ryan) and...well, it's called Kate & Leopold for a reason, folks. You fill in the blanks.
Kate & Leopold could have thrown in a few "fish out of water" gags for easy laughs, but thankfully plays it straight in the time-travelling department. Leopold's adaptation to 21st century life feels natural---if not a bit too immediate---and it's definitely a testament to Hugh Jackman's strong performance as the reluctant Duke. Kate, surprisingly enough, is the one we've got to get used to: she's a cynical, Scrooge-like market researcher, and it's fairly tough at first to see why someone like Leopold would develop feelings for her. Gradually, she softens...and with unlikely help from the ex-boyfriend to reunite her with Leopold in his own time, her outlook on life changes dramatically. So while Kate & Leopold doesn't come off as a completely original rom-com, at least it tries to mix up the formula a little.
Miramax's original DVD included both the theatrical and director's cuts of Kate & Leopold, but the former is omitted from this Blu-Ray release. It's undoubtedly due to director Mangold's staunch defense of "his version"; during this version, he briefly plays a movie director who argues with Kate about the validity of test screenings and studio meddling (which also explains the director's-cut-only DVD and Blu-Ray releases of his second film, 1997's underrated Cop Land). Either way, this director's cut also adds in a few minutes of material centered around Stuart's genetic relationship to Leopold, as well as a brief glimpse of Kate near the beginning. While I'm not completely sold on the Stuart scenes (which basically imply that he dated his own great-great-grandmother!) and the "director cameo" is kinda tacky, they aren't a huge distraction and pass by quickly enough. Either way, Lionsgate's Blu-Ray package serves up a solid A/V presentation, although the only extras are ported from the old DVD release.
Quality Control Department
Video & Audio Quality
Presented in its original 1.85:1 aspect ratio, this 1080p transfer of Kate & Leopold represents a solid visual improvement over the aging 2002 DVD release. A fine layer of film grain is present and no extraneous DNR seems to have been applied, although some of the softer scenes show trace amounts of edge enhancement. The film's color palette is well represented, especially during the more golden tones of the 1800s cityscape. Textures are often crisp, while black levels are fairly steady during the film's occasional nighttime sequences. Overall, it's a solid effort that fans can and should appreciate.
The film's DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio doesn't disappoint, though it doesn't always get ample time to show off. Occasional music cues are strong and robust, dialogue is crisp and rear channel activity pops up on several occasions. LFE is modest but noticeable at times, while the front channel separation is strong from start to finish. Optional English (SDH) and Spanish subtitles are offered during the main feature.
Menu Design, Presentation & Packaging
Seen below, this one-disc package is housed in an eco-friendly keepcase with one promotional insert. The revamped cover artwork is horrifyingly bad, sporting an image of Hugh Jackman that looks more like a wax sculpture than a promotional photo. Menu designs are smooth and elegant, although a number of trailers must be skipped beforehand. This 123-minute film has been divided into 16 chapters, no obvious layer change was detected and this disc appears to be locked for Region "A" players only.
Basically everything of interest has been ported from the original DVD release, aside from a brief and inconsequential photo gallery. Returning extras include an Audio Commentary
with director James Mangold, a handful of Deleted Scenes
with optional director commentary, a surface-level Behind-the-Scenes Featurette
, a brief Costume Featurette
and a Music Video
for Sting's song "Until" (not listed on the packaging). So there's nothing new here, but it's hard to complain with such a low ticket price.
Likable and unpretentious, Kate & Leopold is a fine "date night" choice that won't drive either party up the wall. Though the film's time-travelling plot isn't airtight, a winning performance by Hugh Jackman is enough to anchor everything nicely. Lionsgate's Blu-Ray package offers a solid A/V upgrade from the 2002 DVD release, but that's all that we get in the way of new material (and the omission of the theatrical version is unfortunate, but not necessarily a deal-breaker). A rental may be enough for casual fans or new viewers, but the modest price tag makes Kate & Leopold worth picking up. Recommended.
NOTE: The above images were obtained from promotional outlets and do not represent Blu-Ray's native 1080p resolution.
Randy Miller III is an affable office monkey from Harrisburg, PA. He also does freelance graphic design projects, teaches art classes and runs a website or two. In his limited free time, Randy also enjoys slacking off and writing stuff in third person.