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You've Got Mail

movie reviewmovie reviewmovie review out of 4 Movie Review: You've Got Mail

Starring: Tom Hanks, Meg Ryan
Director: Nora Ephron
Rated: PG
RunTime: 110 Minutes
Release Date: December 1998
Genres: Comedy, Romance

*Also starring: Parker Posey, Jean Stapleton, Dave Chappelle, Steve Zahn, Greg Kinnear, Dabney Coleman, John Randolph

Review by Edward Johnson-Ott
No Rating Supplied

Dear Reader,

Picture Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan smooching on a sunny day in a gorgeous New York City flower garden while "Somewhere Over The Rainbow" plays in the background. Imagine Jean Stapleton saying "I tried to have cybersex once, but I kept getting a busy signal." If the two previous sentences made your stomach turn, keep reading. If, on the other hand, you found the Hanks/Ryan image just darling and the Stapleton quip too cute for words, get as far away from this review as possible, because my critique of the insufferably cutesy-poo "You've Got Mail" will likely give you a headache.

"You've Got Mail" may be the ultimate chick flick. It wouldn't surprise me if the ushers required any males attending the film to check their balls at the door. During this excruciating exercise, I heard waves of female giggling, laughing and "Aww-ing," plus a hearty round of applause at the end. At no time did any man in the audience make a sound. Whether this was because they were stunned, sickened or sleeping I cannot say.

I will say this: "You've Got Mail" will delight people who use writing paper with bunnies on it. I guarantee that some hack critic will describe the film as "a delightful, frothy holiday confection." "You've Got Mail" is for people who embroider toaster cozies, fasten "Garfield" cartoons to their refrigerators with ceramic magnets that look like food, and don't change the channel when that insufferable Celine Dion "Titanic" song pops up yet again on the radio. As for the rest of us, this is the sort of movie that could throw even non-diabetics into sugar shock.

Meg Ryan twinkles non-stop as the proprietor of an unbelievably quaint children's bookstore in Manhattan. Neighborhood kiddies sit enraptured when she dresses-up as the chronically-adorable "Storybook Lady" and reads to them, while her band of lovable rag-tag employees exchange one- liners straight out of "Caroline in the City." At night, after Meg's cuddly curmudgeon boyfriend (Greg Kinnear) goes to bed, she races to the computer, where she waxes rhapsodic with her anonymous online guy pal. During an endless stream of product placements for America Online, the playpen for countless Internet twerps, Meg and her secret sweetie exchange winsome observations about life in the Big Apple ("Don't you love New York in the fall? It makes me want to buy school supplies"). Are you gagging yet?

Ah, but there's trouble in Pepperland. Meg's online honey-bunny is Tom Hanks, an executive of a evil corporation that runs a chain of soulless mega-bookstores. In standard movie coincidence fashion, his next Uber- store is slated to open, you guessed it, right next to Meg's cuddly- wuddly shop. The two continue their online flirt-a-thon, blissfully unaware that in real life they are bitter business enemies. Goodness gracious, how ironic!

Director Nora Ephron, who teamed with Hanks and Ryan for "Sleepless in Seattle," co-wrote the script for this remake of "The Shop Around the Corner," which doesn't contain a single sentence that any actual human being would ever say in a million years. The painfully mannered dialogue plays like the first draft of a flop Neil Simon play, made even more irritating by Ephron's coy direction. From the first shot of Meg Ryan, mugging for the camera while the soundtrack plays the kind of saccharin music most often heard in movies with chimps or the Olsen twins, it's clear that Ephron is aiming this fluff at those who consider "Touched By An Angel" high art.

It gets even worse. Hanks enjoys a VH1 moment at a colorful street fair, frolicking with a couple of kids. Ryan tries to psych herself up for a confrontation by engaging in a cute-as-a-kitten session of shadow-boxing, triggering fits of tittering from the women seated around me. I could go on, but just writing about this noxious movie is making me woozy.

Before anyone fires off an angry letter on their sky blue note paper with teddy bears on the borders, let me assure you that I am not the Grinch that stole Christmas. I love "It's A Wonderful Life," and the romantic comedy, "The Philadelphia Story," and "Local Hero," a whimsical tale packed with quirky characters, is one of my all-time favorite films. The difference between those movies and "You've Got Mail" is simple. They have style and class, while "You've Got Mail" is pure goo, a frilly Hallmark card with icing, whipped cream and a cherry on top. As soon as I got home from enduring this concoction, I slapped a copy of "L.A. Confidential" into the VCR, because exposure to a toxic offering like "You've Got Mail" requires a severe and immediate antidote.

Hugs, kisses and rainbows, Ed

P.S. If you thought "You've Got Mail" was wonderful and are steaming over this review, let me ask you one question. If Tom really loved Meg and saw that his mega-store was about to drive her children's bookstore out of business, why didn't he simply stop carrying children's books and instruct his staff to direct customers to Meg's place? His business could easily withstand the minute drop in revenue, her business would continue to thrive and it would have been the decent thing to do. Think about that while you're rearranging the figurines on your toilet tank doily, girls.

Copyright 1998 Edward Johnson-Ott

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