- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 15, 2006

Dr. Kate Forster has lousy luck with love. She finally meets the man of her dreams, only to find he’s two years behind her.

Not in age, mind you, but in actual time.

“The Lake House” uses a fantastical gimmick to reunite “Speed” stars Keanu Reeves and Sandra Bullock. Miss Bullock’s character exists in 2006, while Mr. Reeves plays a man living in 2004. They share the lake house, a winning collection of glass and stilts featuring a magical mailbox that lets the two connect.

It’s a doozy of a conceit — based on the Korean film “Il Mare” — but one screenwriter David Auburn never bothers to explain.

Romantics everywhere will play along, but the film’s demographic won’t buy the greeting-card emotions and simplistic resolution.

Dear Doctor Kate is leaving the titular lake house for a condo near her new job, but she drops off a welcome note for the house’s new owner.

Rugged architect Alex Wyler (Mr. Reeves) finds the note and leaves one in its place. Kate notices that Alex’s letter is dated 2004 and playfully calls him on his slip.

It’s nothing of the kind. Alex is indeed living in 2004 but somehow has access to 2006 via the mailbox.

They also appear to own the same dog, a scene stealer who does his best to bring the two together.

Neither Kate nor Alex finds the time wrinkle alarming. Instead, they begin writing furiously back and forth, two lonely souls eager for a connection.

At first, their letters spark some cute movie moments.

Kate confesses that she misses the trees around the lake house, and the smitten Alex uproots one and plants it — in 2004, remember — near the spot where Kate’s condo will be built within two years.

Voila, instant greenery.

Once Kate and Alex realize they’re falling in love, the time constraints take on an ominous note. They can’t see or hear each other live, although the story allows them — and us — to connect briefly via a series of flashbacks.

Argentine director Alejandro Agresti (“Valentin”) orchestrates the time-folding elements as coherently as possible, but he can’t bring the characters to full, vibrant life.

Kate and Alex’s exchanges too often read like cloying personal ads, and each falls safely within the romance archetypes. Kate loves Jane Austen, can’t commit to her nebbish of a beau (Dylan Walsh of “Nip/Tuck”) and fears she’ll grow old before she meets Mr. Right. Alex is a white-collar type who wears flannel, and he loves fine art but isn’t above knocking back a few cold ones at the local dive.

Mr. Agresti fares better with the tone of “The Lake House, which is as warm and inviting as the house in question.

Christopher Plummer injects intrigue into his role as Alex’s driven, distant father. For a moment or two, the film is his to take — even if it appears he’s acting in another, more turbulent drama.

It’s nice to see the chemistry between Miss Bullock and Mr. Reeves in their 1994 hit was no fluke, but “The Lake House” expends far too much energy keeping the actors apart from each other and, sadly, the audience apart from both of them.

**

TITLE: “The Lake House”

RATING: PG (Adult language)

CREDITS: Directed by Alejandro Agresti. Written by David Auburn based on the movie “Il Mare”

RUNNING TIME: 108 minutes

WEB SITE: https://thelakehousemovie.warnerbros.com/

MAXIMUM RATING: FOUR STARS

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