[Screen It]


(1998) (Tom Hanks, Meg Ryan) (PG)

Blood/Gore Disrespectful/
Bad Attitude
Tense Scenes
Mild None Mild None None
Minor None None None Mild
Smoking Tense Family
Topics To
Talk About
Minor None Minor Mild None

Romantic Comedy: Two rival bookstore owners unknowingly carry on a platonic relationship over the Internet.
Kathleen Kelly (MEG RYAN) runs The Shop Around the Corner, a children's bookstore in New York's Upper West Side. Living with a highbrow newspaper columnist, Frank Navasky (GREG KINNEAR), Kathleen believes her life to be good and enjoys the company of her employees and coworkers, such as Birdie (JEAN STAPLETON) and George (STEVE ZAHN).

Joe Fox also thinks his life is fine as he lives just a few blocks away from Kathleen with his arrogant book editor girlfriend, Patricia Eden (PARKER POSEY). Heir to the Fox Books superstore chain run by his father (DABNEY COLEMAN), Joe's opening one of their megastores right around the corner from Kathleen's quaint little shop.

Unbeknownst to these two who soon become bitter business enemies once they finally meet in person, they've been anonymously flirting with each other via e-mail conversations using the pseudonyms NY152 and Shopgirl. As Joe and Kathleen's in-person rivalry grows, so does their electronic relationship, a fact that comes to a head when Joe unexpectedly learns of Shopgirl's true identity.

From that point on, the two dabble with friendship, love and business rivalry as Joe tries to figure out what to do next with their odd, dual-layered relationship.

If they're fans of Hanks and Ryan, or romantic comedies in general, they definitely will.
For some language.
  • TOM HANKS plays the heir to a super bookstore chain who lives with his girlfriend, but finds himself falling for a woman he anonymously met on the Internet.
  • MEG RYAN plays a woman who runs a small children's bookstore who comes to hate Joe, her rival, but falls for his anonymous, online presence.


    OUR TAKE: 8 out of 10
    Based on the 1940 Jimmy Stewart/Margaret Sulluvan film, "The Shop Around the Corner" (itself based on Miklos Laszlo's play "Parfumerie"), "You've Got Mail" not only proves that one can successfully update a charming film, but also that lightning can strike twice.

    By that, we're referring to the second pairing of Tom Hanks, Meg Ryan, and writer/director Nora Ephron who previously delighted romantic comedy fans with 1993's "Sleepless in Seattle." Like that film, this one's rather lightweight, fluffy stuff, but oh, what a tasty concoction of cinematic cotton candy it proves to be.

    Sure, it's rather predictable (considering how few romantic comedies end with the couple not being together), and some may complain that it's too saccharinely sweet for its own good. Nonetheless, you can't beat the wonderful and naturally easy chemistry between Hanks and Ryan, or Ephron's direction and script (co-written by sister Delia Ephron) that take full advantage of their on screen chemistry with a crisp plot and smart and funny dialogue.

    Instead of using the contemporary romantic comedy plot where the two destined lovers crisscross each other's paths but only meet at the end, this one allows the protagonists to fully interact with each other while still maintaining that anonymous, "we almost met" element.

    Because of that, the film comes off as more enjoyable than "Sleepless" since the audience gets to see the two characters together throughout much of the story, and thus consequently laugh, worry and wonder about when and how they'll finally both know the other's true identity.

    By including the entire bookstore rivalry subplot where the two characters don't like each other, Ephron adds another whole level that easily stands on its own, but also perfectly complements the main romantic plot.

    In addition, she adds plenty of fun montage scenes (Hanks playing with some kids, Hanks and Ryan constantly running into and then trying to avoid each other, etc...) along with the standard diverse soundtrack selection (where the songs are actually chosen for the moment's theme or feeling, instead of used simply to fill a soundtrack for profit's sakes), all to keep things lively throughout.

    Of course what makes the film work so well is the perfect cast, and Hanks and Ryan couldn't be more well-suited, charming and likeable than they are here. With this, their third film together (the first being "Joe Versus the Volcano"), Hanks and Ryan are so comfortable playing with and against each other that their relationship always seems perfectly natural and believable.

    Hanks (who's had a banner year with "Saving Private Ryan" and producing the wonderful HBO series, "From the Earth to the Moon") is easily our generation's Jimmy Stewart or Cary Grant. Playing the everyday man with extraordinary ease, Hanks nonchalantly slips into every role he plays and makes the characters instantly likeable, but more importantly, he also makes them human. While there's clearly nothing complex about his character here, his timing, mannerisms and the overall joy he brings to the role are priceless.

    The same can be said about Meg Ryan ("When Harry Met Sally," "City of Angels") and her performance. Like Hanks, she's becoming synonymous with contemporary romantic comedies and her portrayal of charmingly cute, contemporary women who still dream of "white picket fence" lives is always perfectly played. Certain performers can always bring a smile to moviegoers' faces, and Ryan is one of those actresses with that innate gift, and she uses it to full advantage in her role here.

    The supporting cast, while not given a great deal of screen time, is fantastic and all deliver solid performances. Jean Stapleton (TV's "All in the Family") is always fun to see, while independent film queen, Parker Posey ("The House of Yes") plays something of a more "normal" role than usual. Greg Kinnear ("As Good As It Gets") is decent as Kathleen's scholarly columnist boyfriend, while the wacky Steve Zahn ("That Thing You Do!") and David Chappelle ("Half Baked") provide the supplemental comic relief.

    Easily the best "feel good" and perfect date movie of the year, "You've Got Mail" is a decidedly lightweight, but fun and charming film that will lift everyone's spirits and put a smile on their faces. Featuring a smart script and Hanks and Ryan at their best as romantic comedy characters, you simply can't go wrong with this picture. We give this delightful, audience pleasing film an 8 out of 10.

    Here's a quick look at the content found in this PG-rated film. Profanity is mild with 1 use of the "s" word and a small assortment of other words and phrases. A few benign comments are made about "cybersex," and while no activity is seen, the two main characters do live with their respective, unmarried partners.

    Beyond that and some social drinking, however, the rest of the categories have little or no major objectionable content. Should you still be concerned with the film's appropriateness, we suggest that you take a closer look at what's been listed.

  • Joe drinks a beer.
  • People have wine, champagne and cocktails at a party (Kathleen has a drink and Joe gets one for Patricia).
  • Some of Kathleen's employees have drinks at a piano sing-along.
  • Kathleen and Frank have wine.
  • Joe makes martinis for himself and his father.
  • None.
  • Some may see the corporate super bookstore moving in and putting a smaller bookstore out of business as having some of both.
  • Kathleen has some of both toward Joe since he runs that corporate super bookstore and is her competition.
  • Some may see Joe and Kathleen for living with their respective, unmarried partners as having some of both.
  • Joe's stepmother-to-be somewhat subtly comes on to him several times.
  • None.
  • None.
  • Phrases: "Idiot," "Nut" (crazy person), "Pisses me off," "Bastards," "Bitch" (what Joe offhandedly says Kathleen will turn out to be), and an incomplete "Go to hell."
  • None.
  • None.
  • None.
  • At least 1 "s" word, 2 asses, 2 damns, 2 hells, and 5 uses of "Oh my God," 4 of "God" and 1 use of "G-damn" as exclamations.
  • Although we never see any activity, Joe lives with Patricia (we briefly see them in bed together, but nothing happens), while Kathleen lives with Frank (all are unmarried). We also learn that Joe's father has been living with a woman for several years (and they have a child).
  • Asking about her online relationship, Kathleen's employee says, "Have you had sex?" Kathleen says of course not, and the employee says, "Have you had cybersex? The minute you do, they lose respect for you." Birdie then asks what they're talking about and they respond, "Cybersex." She then replies, "I tried to have cybersex once but I kept getting a busy signal."
  • There's talk that Joe's stepmother-to-be ran off with their nanny (ie. Another woman).
  • None.
  • Kathleen briefly comments on missing her deceased mother.
  • Meeting people online and then meeting them in person (and how that other person may not be who/what they said they were).
  • The presence of big superstores that often put small, independently owned stores out of business.
  • How people are sometimes different from how they initially appear.
  • None.

  • Reviewed December 10, 1998 / Posted on December 18, 1998

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