Sandra Bullock and Keanu Reeves in The Lake House (2006)


(director: Alejandro Agresti; screenwriters: David Auburn/based on the Korean motion picture “Il Mare” as written Eun-Jeong Kim; cinematographer: Alar Kivilo; editors: Lynzee Klingman/Alejandro Brodersohn; music: Rachel Portman; cast: Keanu Reeves (Alex Wyler), Sandra Bullock (Dr. Kate Forster), Dylan Walsh (Morgan Price), Shohreh Aghdashloo (Dr. Anna Klyczynski), Willeke van Ammelrooy (Kate’s Mother), Christopher Plummer (Simon Wyler), Lynn Collins (Mona); Runtime: 108; MPAA Rating: PG; producer: Doug Davison/Roy Lee; Warner Bros. Pictures; 2006)

“You know the picture is in trouble when the best actor is the dog and the dog isn’t even named Lassie.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

You know the picture is in trouble when the best actor is the dog and the dog isn’t even named Lassie. The heavy-handed dumb romantic fantasy film is an adaptation by Argentinean director Alejandro Agresti (“Valentín”), his first American production, and writer David Auburn (Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright) of the Korean original by Lee Hyun-seung “Il Mare” (aka “Siworae”). The stars Sandra Bullock and Keanu Reeves were together in “Speed,” and why anyone would want to reunite these two wooden actors is beyond my comprehension.

Dr. Kate Forester (Sandra Bullock) is forced to abandon her beloved suburban Chicago rental Frank Lloyd Wright looking glass house, located in Willow Springs by Lake Michigan, when she moves to the city for her new stressed-out hospital job. Kate leaves behind a note for the incoming occupant to forward her mail to her new Chicago address. He’s hunky builder boss Alex Wyler (Keanu Reeves), whose estranged narcissistic father is the noted architect Simon (Christopher Plummer) who built the lovely dream house. The two glum correspondents begin to write more personal and passionate letters that are passed along through movie magic rather than through the U.S. postal system. They both soon learn that Alex is simultaneously living in the lake house in 2004 while Kate is living in Chicago in 2006, but he never has enough curiosity to ask about the future (a true Bushie!). The time warp is never explained (as if it could be, except it was a conceit used by pics such as Frequency and Somewhere in Time), perhaps thinking who cares it’s only a movie and that alone should stand for its reality. The time travel story is never taken as anything but a plot device to tell a Jane Austen story from her novel Persuasion, about a couple who fall in love but don’t take advantage of the situation. When they meet much later on, they have another chance to get together but discover it’s too late. The film tries to tackle Austen’s take on love … that timing is everything.

On Kate’s first day off while sitting in Chicago Plaza hoping to meet her mysterious correspondent from the lake house, she witnesses a man getting killed when run over by a bus; she is also further disappointed when her date is a no show. The indecisive Kate is locked into a loveless romance with pushy banker Morgan Price (Dylan Walsh), but breaks it off because she’s still more in love with a man she never met. Meanwhile Alex treats co-worker Mona (Lynn Collins) with callous indifference, even as the good looker vainly chases after him. It was hard to like the two self-centered would-be lovers, though we were clearly supposed to feel for their separation.

The gimmicky film will try to remedy that unhappy Austen book ending with a Hollywood happy ending, as it sets up a contrived gooey fanciful ending where Kate must warn Alex in time from her vantage point in 2006 not to do what he supposedly did two years ago. The big questions lingering are whether Kate can warn her would-be lover in time and if they are destined to be lovers. It’s meant to be charming, seductive and preposterous, while only the latter registered for me.