You've Got Mail

Movie review by
S. Jhoanna Robledo, Common Sense Media
You've Got Mail Movie Poster Image
Popular with kidsParents recommend
Predictable-but-sweet romantic comedy.
  • PG
  • 1998
  • 119 minutes

Parents say

age 14+
Based on 13 reviews

Kids say

age 9+
Based on 16 reviews

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Romantic but confusing: Woman falls in love with the very man who helped destroy her family bookstore -- so perhaps the message is, love conquers all? Messages about corporate power over mom-and-pop business.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Kathleen is gracious and poised, and really seems to care about the people who work for her and the families that frequent her bookstore. Joe has many wonderful qualities, but he also seems cold and calculating.

Violence
Sex

Some references to a man dating women way younger than him; two characters email each other and chat online and acquainted without their respective partners knowing; and there’s a passionate embrace and kiss in the end. Discussions of infidelity and cybersex.

Language

Infrequent use of “ass” and “hell.”

Consumerism

Prominent logos for Starbucks, Baby Gap, America Online (and the tell-tale sound of its dial-up service), Zabar’s, VISA, etc.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Social drinking, primarily wine, at events and restaurants.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that this 1998 romantic comedy may seem old-fashioned to teen viewers, especially given the technology -- dial-up Internet access and AOL chat rooms -- at the heart of its plot. But they’ll likely find it entertaining, too, and still relatable. There’s a chain-stores-versus-independent-stores debate that may give young viewers pause (but would surely be informative). Plus, expect some discussions about infidelity and cybersex.

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User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byTam A. February 21, 2018

CURSE WORDS NOT MENTIONED IN REVIEW!

I watched this movie many years ago before I had children so before watching it with them I looked up the review here on Common Sense Media. I was EXCITED that... Continue reading
Adult Written byCommonSenseChristian January 1, 2013

Good, but Don't Let Your Kids Check this Mailbox

First of all, yes, this movie is sweet, and clean for its day. For a bookworm like myself, the romance between mom-and-pop bookshop owner Kathleen and major cha... Continue reading
Kid, 11 years old March 24, 2020

An Amazing Movie With Very Little Inappropriate Content

I am writing because I watched this movie just a few minutes ago and it was amazing! There was VERY little swearing. I have rated this for ages 9 and up because... Continue reading
Kid, 9 years old October 15, 2014

Oh just wait a little

They have a lot of consumerisim and when I watched it when I was 9, I was a little confused. There is also a lot of L-O-V-E in it.

What's the story?

Joe Fox (Tom Hanks) is set to open a big-box bookstore on the Upper West Side, a neighborhood that’s fiercely protective of its small shops. (At least it was when the movie was filmed.) Little does he know that the woman he’s been chatting with online, unbeknownst to his frantic, editor girlfriend (Parker Posey), is Kathleen Kelly (Meg Ryan), the proprietor of a small children’s bookstore that will likely be decimated once his mega-store opens its doors. Can love trump commerce?

Is it any good?

There’s a reason YOU'VE GOT MAIL has become a romcom classic: It is knit together like a perfectly cabled sweater, with a nary a stitch dropped. The pacing is perfect, the characters likeable, the dialogue breezy. Some observations, including one about the overly complicated choices at chain coffee stores -- Starbucks, specifically -- still hold true. (It was filmed in the 1990s.) The arguments for the ability of small, independent stores to survive against super-stores are hopeful -- but also a sad, really, given how many have foundered in real life.

Nostalgia is one of the charms of You've Got Mail, and the old-fashioned courtship at the heart of it, despite being conducted online, is the most charming of all and references romances-by-letter of times past. Hanks and Ryan have heaps of chemistry, and though the fact that they fall in love given the circumstances seems highly unlikely — the plot’s a little far-fetched, but what romcom doesn’t have an implausible one? — we buy it because, well, why not?

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the central argument of the film: Are big-box stores to blame for the decline of independent stores?

  • Is Joe’s and Kathleen’s relationship believable? Does it matter if it’s not? Do relationships that begin online face challenges that other relationships don’t? Also, talk to your children about instant messaging and other ways to communicate online.

Movie details

For kids who love romance

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