Leopold, the third Duke of Albany (Jackman), is transported from 19th to 21st century Manhattan when he gives chase to mysterious scientist Stuart (Schreiber). There he meets and falls for Stuart's ex, career gal Kate (Ryan). But will he return to his own time?
After Heavy, director James Mangold made a brave mainstream debut with Copland, then helped garner an Oscar for Angelina Jolie in Girl, Interrupted. Now he seems to have taken a step backwards with this time travel comedy, also co-written by him.
The concept is sound but falters in the details. Leopold - a would-be inventor in his own time, and supposed pioneer of the elevator - pays scant attention to the inventions that litter modern day New York. Meanwhile, Kate - a career-driven advertising researcher - does very little investigation into her suitor, despite copious evidence in encyclopaedias that proves he is who he claims to be.
This is only scratching the surface of the plot holes. Stuart takes photos in Leopold's time during events at which he is not present. Leopold rubbishes Kate's boss with knowledge of an opera that was first performed several decades after the year from which he has been transported. Leopold has unexplained culinary skills which surely a man of his station would never have mastered.
All this might have been ignored if the central romance were enough to carry the film through. Certainly there are moments - such as Leopold's horseback chase across Central Park, and his coaching of Charlie, Kates brother, in old-style love tips - which have all the right romantic elements. But, without an adequate foil, he is left with nothing to play against.
Meg Ryan has done this role too many times. It's hard to believe she is still the single, hapless female she was in When Harry Met Sally. Everything has an over-familiar ring about it, from her style of dress to the way her apartment looks. If you can forgive her just one more trip into the same territory, your enjoyment of the film may increase.
Despite a promising premise, Jackman's Golden Globe-nominated performance remains the only tangible reason to see this movie. A nonsensical plot, a too-predictably cast Ryan, and an underused supporting cast result in a movie that quickly tips the scales.