A light romantic drama, "The Lake House" is being sold on two things - the re-teaming of Sandra Bullock and Keanu Reeves which was such a success in 1994's "Speed", and a very mild fantasy premise about love across time through a magic letterbox at a picturesque house. The former element works, the material never stretching the two far in terms of acting, even as it allows them plenty of time to talk and a few moments to physically interact. In these moments they show that same chemistry that sparked well twelve years ago is still very much there and has only matured like a fine wine.
Unfortunately that's about the only element that does truly ignite. The fantasy aspect is unfortunately a failure, it's a sweet idea but with the characters interacting at different points in time it pretty much shreds any adherence to logic it might have had. If you consider it at only a fantasy level, even those capable of buying totally into the premise will find it hard to overlook some serious gaps in plausibility and the somewhat trite conventions of the screenplay.
It's a shame it falls back on those romance-fantasy cliches as there's something more adult here going on. Alejandro Agresti's direction is languidly paced but never too drawn out, and he develops the romance in a slow but believable way which makes it sweeter. The premise is a clever and relatively original one, but it never truly exploits it and certainly doesn't explore avenues that real life would take in situations like these.
This is meant to be light-hearted fantasy you say, if so then why give these leads such emotional baggage such as Bullock's over-stressed job or Reeves with his always disapproving dying father. Armed with a PG rating, the film stays on very safe ground despite some pretty emotionally distraught subplots. Yet its focus always remains on the human aspect and our leads which helps overcome the clunky script's credibility flaws to some extent.
There are other actors in here too, good ones like Aghdashloo and Plummer, but these parts are perfunctory at best, this is very much a two-person show and one that 's surprisingly mature and emotional for a film with such a fantastical premise. Yet despite its admirable qualities, it's all simply too slipshot - throwing reality out the window one moment and embracing it the next. If a serious challenge gets in its way, it simply sidesteps it without trying to explain as it races towards a rather obvious Hollywood ending. Despite the conventions though, there's something worth appreciating here which makes it certainly worth a look.