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You've Got Mail Print E-mail
Monday, 03 May 1999

You've Got Mail

Warner Home Video
starring: Tom Hanks, Meg Ryan, Parker Posey, Jean Stapleton, Dave Chappelle
release year: 1998
film rating: Three-and-a-Half Stars
sound/picture: Three Stars

The DVD of ‘You’ve Got Mail’ is surely one of the most synergistic pieces of software to arrive so far in the DVD revolution. Not only does it come with a host of the customary "special edition" goodies that accompany many high-end prestige releases, but it has a bundle of DVD-ROM features as well. These include the option of comparing and contrasting key scenes in ‘Mail’ with those from two previous films based on the same subject matter, ‘The Shop Around the Corner’ and ‘In The Good Old Summertime,’ the ability to go straight to a favorite song in the film and copies of all the emails the characters send to each other in their email romance. There are even links to online chat rooms and AOL has its own You’ve Got Mail keyword (the server is used by the film’s main characters). The downside is that only a DVD-ROM for PC will do; owners of mere CD-ROM drives and Mac computers will have to make do with the regular DVD features.

This leads us to ‘You’ve Got Mail’ itself. Reuniting director/co-screenwriter Nora Ephron with stars Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan, who all previously worked together on ‘Sleepless in Seattle,’ the new film is calculated to delight fans of the earlier piece. More surprisingly, ‘You’ve Got Mail’ turns out to be good fun even for viewers who found ‘Sleepless’ overly cute and annoying.

In ‘The Shop Around the Corner’ and ‘In the Good Old Summertime,’ co-workers who can’t stand each other in person don’t realize that each is the anonymous penpal that the other adores from numerous loving missives. ‘Mail’ simply updates the tale by making the couple email correspondents who’ve met in an online chat room and business competitors instead of colleagues. Offline, Joe (Hanks) is the scion of a rich family that owns a chain of hugely successful mega-bookstores (think Borders); Kathleen (Ryan) owns a small Manhattan children’s bookshop across the street from the site of Joe’s latest outlet. Naturally, they mistrust and resent one another. However, both continue to pour their hearts out in intelligent, whimsical language to the understanding (albeit unnamed) soul on the other end of their modems. Will they ever figure out each others’ true identities and overcome their animosity to find true love?

The writing in ‘Mail’ is sharp in a way that ‘Sleepless’ never quite managed. Because the characters here aren’t looking for love (in fact, Joe and Kathleen are both comfortably involved with other people at the outset), they appear to have well-rounded lives outside the romantic quest, which automatically makes them a lot more appealing. Ephron and co-writer Delia Ephron (the two are siblings) have solved the potential problem of what to do as the letters are read aloud in voiceover by their writers (i.e., Hanks reads Joe’s and Ryan reads Kathleen’s). Instead of sticking with either of the pair, the action is filled with brightly-colored, humorous vignettes. The voiceovers continue outside of the email exchange, providing a seamless and engaging view of Joe and Kathleen’s thoughts.

Visually, ‘Mail’ is full of vibrant hues that make New York look fabulous in winter and in summer. Aurally, the soundtrack is so clear that it’s possible to make out the usually indecipherable lyrics to the Cranberries’ rendition of "Dreams" in Chapter 3. The filmmakers choose apt music from a variety of eras throughout, with a soaring "Over the Rainbow" especially right for the mood in Chapter 32.

‘You’ve Got Mail’ is a romantic comedy that lives up to its pedigree with charm, wit and characters we can actually endorse. It’s a fine movie for at-home dates or even solo viewing for those in the mood for relatively innocent fun.

more details
sound format:
Dolby Surround 5.1
aspect ratio(s):
Original Theatrical Aspect Ratio (exact ratio not given)
special features: HBO First Look "Making Of" Documentary; Interactive "Discover New York’s Upper West Side" Map Tour; Feature-Length Audio Commentary Track with Director/Co-Writer Nora Ephron & Producer Lauren Shuler-Donner; Alternate Music-Only Audio Track; Production Notes; 12 Theatrical Trailers; English Closed-Captioning; French Subtitles; Chapter Search; DVD-ROM PC Features
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