Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (September 29, 2006)
12 years after they paired for the hit action flick Speed, Keanu Reeves and Sandra Bullock come together again in 2006’s supernatural romance The Lake House. Bullock plays Dr. Kate Forster, a new MD at a busy Chicago hospital with no social life. Reeves portrays Alex Wyler, an architect trying to rebuild his life and relationships with his estranged family.
Alex moves into a house by the lake, and when he does so, he finds a note from the prior tenant. This warns of some concerns like paw prints that Alex doesn’t see. As it turns out, that’s because the letter came from the future.
We learn that Kate wrote the missive that Alex read. She’s in 2006 while he’s back in 2004. They begin a really long distance correspondence and romance. The movie follows their relationship and how it affects their lives.
When I first heard of Lake, I totally shunned it: “If Keanu and Sandy ain’t on a bus primed to blow, I ain’t interested!” However, I eventually became moderately interested, almost from a sense of perverse curiosity. After all, Lake couldn’t be as sappy and lame as it looked, could it?
Yes it could – and then some. I will admit that the movie boasts an interesting idea with its time-travelling mail. That concept opens up the story too all sorts of intriguing notions, virtually none of which the film actually explores.
Instead, it prefers lots of vaguely sad, lingering glances from its leads. They read their letters and gaze off into space as they dream about each other. This flick could’ve been shot without audio and it would’ve worked just the same. It’s 98 minutes of mopey gazes and little else.
I recognize the film is hamstrung by the inability of its leads to physically connect, but all of this gets ridiculous. We also see shots that overlay the two actors in the same place to create the impression they’re there together. These just become confusing, mainly because their letters answer each other a little too neatly; the story tries to create a feel for interactive text that’d be impossible in the situation.
With any time-travel story, one needs to disregard logic to a degree. I’m willing to do that when the movie’s fun ala Terminator 2 or Back to the Future. Sure, both of those flicks suffer from plot holes, but they entertain so much we don’t care.
Since Lake offers such a ponderous experience, we get more than enough time to focus on the problems. The main one stems from the fact the pair don’t immediately connect in 2006. Sure, we see a few failed attempts, but Kate never bothers to look up Alex. This makes no sense. Get online, honey, and do a Google search to find him! She passively waits for him to contact her via the letters rather than track him down in the present.
There’s a very good story rationale for this that I won’t reveal as it’d be a serious spoiler. Suffice it to say that the reason Kate doesn’t contact Alex in 2006 is visible from a mile away; the film wants it to surprise us but it doesn’t.
Instead, we get stuck inside an exercise in tedium. Lake runs a mere 98 minutes but feels twice as long. Keanu still can’t portray any realistic emotions, and the movie fails to take advantage of Sandra’s more potent skills. It attempts an aching romance but only leaves the viewer with an aching head.
Anachronism alert: in 2004, Kate and Alex listen to a McCartney song that wasn’t released until 2005.