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Site created 12/15/97.

review added: 2/22/01

You've Got Mail
1998 (1999) - Warner Bros.

review by Brad Pilcher of The Digital Bits

Enhanced for 16x9 TVs

You've Got Mail Film Rating: A-

Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): A-/A/A

Specs and Features

120 mins, PG, letterboxed widescreen (1.85:1), 16x9 enhanced, single-sided, RSDL dual-layered (layer switch 1:18:24, in chapter 23), Snapper case packaging, audio commentary by director Nora Ephron and producer Lauren Shuler Donner, HBO First Look Special: A Conversation With Nora Ephron, interactive tour of New York's Upper West Side, alternate music-only track, two theatrical trailers, special trailers for The Shop Around the Corner and The Good Old Summertime, cast and crew bios, DVD-ROM material (including screen savers, cast & crew interviews, scene comparisons, weblinks and more), animated film-themed menu screens with music and sound effects, scene access (33 chapters), languages: English (DD 5.1), subtitles: English and French, Closed Captioned

"The whole purpose of places like Starbucks is for people with no decision-making ability whatsoever to make six decisions just to buy one cup of coffee. Short, tall, light, dark, caf, decaf, low fat, non-fat, etc. So people who don't know what the hell they're doing or who on Earth they are can, for only $2.95, get not just a cup of coffee, but an absolutely defining sense of self: Tall! Decaf! Cappuccino!"

Occasionally, a "chick flick" comes around that is more than what it seems. Sometimes, it's a telling drama about life. Sometimes, it's an endearing stab at the more sensitive male side. Sometimes, it's just a damn good script and a great sense of setting. You've Got Mail is like that. Easily pigeon-holed into the "chick flick" category, because it is one, this film may be written off by some. But it shouldn't be and you can thank director Nora Ephron for that.

This film's strength is Nora Ephron. Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan have an undeniable chemistry - that much is certain. But this film, in particular, is Nora Ephron's, through and through. You never see her, but you hear her in every piece of witty dialogue (which she wrote with her sister Delia). And you see her love of New York in every bit of framing. In fact, this film is as good as any sightseeing trip through the Upper West Side. Ephron obviously loves this city, and it shows.

The plot goes something like this. Hanks is Joe Fox, the big kahuna behind Fox Books, a major chain retailer. Ryan is Kathleen Kelly, the owner of a small children's bookstore, The Shop Around the Corner. In real life, they are fierce competitors who hate each other's guts. Online, where they have no idea who they each really are, a romance is blossoming. When the two online romancers prepare to meet, obvious complications arise. It's all very amusing and very charming, and Ephron manages to weave little mini-essays on life into the story's fabric along the way.

The film has Hanks and Ryan going for it, not to mention the wonderful script. And since Ephron knows New York as well, the scenery is always as entertaining and beautiful as the players involved. In other words, You've Got Mail is just wonderful. It's not high brow stuff, mind you, but it is a very smart romance and a very interesting peak the kinds of situations that have arisen from the Internet boom. Thankfully, the film doesn't focus so heavily on that one issue that it forgets the story behind it, and for that this movie glows even more brightly.

The video on this disc from Warner is good and solid. The vibrant colors and wonderful vistas of New York shine through in full anamorphic widescreen. The subtle facial acting of the cast is perfectly captured. Grain is just not here. The lighting is sometimes a tad too bright, but that's nit picking an otherwise wonderful transfer. The Dolby Digital 5.1 audio is also good, although nothing that will flex your speakers. This film is all about the dialogue, but with a very catchy score. Fortunately, both come through wonderfully in this mix, and the disc's music-only track enhances your appreciation of the score even further.

Where do I begin with the extras? This is technically not a special edition, but damned if it doesn't look like one. The commentary with director Ephron and producer Lauren Shuler Donner is top-notch and very insightful. Add to that a special behind-the-scenes documentary from HBO, and you've got a great disc. That documentary is great because it includes a very nice interview with Ephron mixed in. But that's not all you get. Two trailers for this movie are included, along with two more classic previews for earlier film versions of this story. There's the alternate music track we mentioned, and a "virtual" tour of some of the sights around New York's Upper West Side that appear in the movie. All of this stuff is great, and suffers from none of the fluff factor that some extras have these days.

But wait! I feel like an infomercial here, but there's more. Pop this puppy into your DVD-ROM drive and you'll have some of the best ROM material I've seen. View original call sheets, compare key scenes in this film with ones from older versions, and jump directly to your favorite song in the film. Not enough for you? OK, then read through all the e-mail the characters sent to each other. Ephron really shines with these, as they almost always represent a little mini-essay on life. There's some supplemental cast information along with screensavers and wallpapers. It's really a wonderful complement of ROM extras.

So what are you waiting for? If you like smart but charming films, you'll absolutely love You've Got Mail. And if you're a DVD collector, you'd be foolish to pass up on this kind of a disc. If you haven't already added this disc to your video library, definitely don't miss it.

Brad Pilcher
[email protected]

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