Ah, the glory days of dial up internet. Nothing beat tying up the phone lines for hours on end and logging into AOL to talk to total strangers about nothing at all. Those days may seem further gone than they actually are, but several things from that era still exist. Anonymity breeding jerks online? Check. Porn accessible by the click of a button? Yup. Online dating? You betcha. In fact, it's that latter example (and thankfully not the second) that serves up as the meat and potatoes for You've Got Mail.
This 1998 romantic comedy film directed by Nora Ephron (When Harry Met Sally, Sleepless in Seattle) brings Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks back to the screen once again. There's a certain chemistry that sparked out of Hanks and Ryan working together and they seemed to set the romantic comedy standard back in the day. With that in mind, You've Got Mail isn't necessarily the better of their efforts, but it's a charmer and totally worth revisiting.
Set in New York City, You've Got Mail tells the story about two people who meet on the internet and fall in love. In real life, however, they are business rivals and basically loathe each other. Naturally there's more to it than that, but on the surface that's what you get.
Kathleen Kelly (Meg Ryan) operates a small, family run independent children's book store named The Shop Around the Corner. Her mother ran it before her, and it's basically the best thing in her life. Things are going well until Fox Books, operated by Joe Fox (Tom Hanks), opens up pretty much right down the street. Fox Books is the big Barnes and Noble equivalent and crushes Kathleen's small business. While this is going on Joe and Kathleen meet each other online on AOL randomly as NY152 and Shopgirl. Initially they have no clue of each other's real life identity and through their conversations they become interested in pursuing something more.
Predictable complications arise as their work and social lives begin to converge, but the manner in which the script plays it is rather tongue in cheek. One of the two begins to suspect the other is who they think they are. Thus they start to play their cards differently. Adding complication to the burgeoning romance is the fact that Joe and Kelly are each in currently failing relationships. Greg Kinnear and Parker Posey fall into these roles respectively.
One thing I'll say for You've Got Mail is that it knows when to produce the laughs and when to tug at the heart strings. The core plot itself isn't as involved or outstanding as one might hope for, but the cast does a fantastic job with the material and the pacing is basically spot on for the gengre. Hanks and Ryan naturally steal the show while support from Kinnear, Posey, Steve Zahn, and even Dave Chappelle adds personality. Largely thanks to the cast there are many parts of the film that work better than they should have and from start to finish the movie is a charmer that succeeds at producing that warm fuzzy feeling.
Ultimately the film is an enjoyably lighthearted romantic comedy. I wouldn't call this the best example of the genre, but it's right up there and totally worth checking out. As long as you aren't looking for the next Sleepless in Seattle you won't be disappointed. Come expecting an entertaining flick to watch with your significant other and you'll walk away satisfied.
You've Got Mail is presented on Blu-ray with a 1.85:1 aspect ratio with a 1080p transfer and MPEG-4 AVC encoding. The film looks good with warm colors, sharp details, and decent black levels. The dark areas of this film aren't as rich or deep as they could have been, but they compliment the presentation well enough. There's also a slight amount of edge enhancement at times and a fine layer of grain over everything. Neither point really detracts from the experience, but rather gives the movie a somewhat aged appearance. It's not a razor sharp transfer, but it's a small step up from the previous DVD releases.
For audio You've Got Mail comes with a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track as its primary source. I don't want to call the presentation overkill, but really this is a romantic comedy and it doesn't call for a dynamic output. As such the film sounds good with crystal clear quality, but it's mostly front-centric thanks to the emphasis on dialogue. Slight ambient noise filters through the rear channels, though the soundtrack makes more us of it. This is a presentation that's more adequate than impressive, but the quality is there.
If you own the Deluxe Edition DVD release from a couple years ago, then most of the bonus features here are going to be very familiar. For starters there's an audio commentary with Writer/Director Nora Ephron and Producer Lauren Shuler Donner. There's also a music-only track for the film, a theatrical trailer, and a music video for Carole King "Anyone of All".
For meatier content there's "Delivering You've Got Mail", which is a interview of sorts where Ephron, Hanks, and Ryan talk about various aspects of the film at length. "You've Got Chemistry" looks at the on screen chemistry of actors such as Hanks and Ryan, though many other Hollywood pairings are featured more prominently. "HBO First Look: A Conversation with Nora Ephron" features more of Ephron talking about the film prior to its release. "Discover New York's Upper West Side", which is a tour of sorts that takes viewers to different locations of the film's shooting.
All these features are well and good, but one of the biggest treats was the inclusion of the 2002 DVD release of "The Shop Around the Corner". This 1940 movie directed by Ernst Lubitsch stars Margaret Sullavan, James Stewart, and Frank Morgan. This is the film that inspired You've Got Mail and it's a worthwhile romantic comedy in its own right. DVD Savant has a complete review of the film here. It's definitely an added bonus if you're just coming to this release for the main feature.
You've Got Mail is a charming film from start to finish. As a comedy it succeeds at bringing the laughs, and as a romance it tugs at the heartstrings. A solid script, great acting, and efforts behind the camera, come together to make for a movie that should be enjoyable to most audience members. It's best served to couples, but sappy romantics will warm up to it as well.
As far as the Blu-ray is concerned the video presentation is good but not outstanding, and the audio is crystal clear, though mostly qualifies as serviceable. The real treat is the supplemental offering which includes all the bonus material from the two-disc DVD edition, and packs in an additional movie on top of it. If you don't already have You've Got Mail in your DVD collection, consider this Blu-ray edition recommended.
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