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You've Got Mail
A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
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.
- Parents say
- Kids say
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.
For kids who love romance
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.