So it is February… That barren wasteland of a month when winter is shitting out its last ‘screw you and all the love ones you hold dear’ snow storms while we wait anxiously for spring to come and thaw us out of our ice encased tombs. So of course this ‘beautiful’ time of the year is the perfect time to have the holiday in which we celebrate our undying love for each other in a whirlwind of consumerism and cheesy romance. February is often considered the month of love thanks to that one special holiday smack dab in the middle of it, Valentines Day. It is a day when those in committed relationships shower each other with gifts of chocolate, goofy stuffed animals, and going out on dates. Meanwhile the singles sit at home pretending the day does not exist as the voice in the back of our head screams at us, questioning if we will ever find that certain special someone.
If you are a person like me, some guy who spends the majority of his time either engaging in nerdy activities or watching movies, playing video games, and writing reviews about them (Seriously, How the hell am I still single?) Now is the perfect time to slap on a fun theme to reviews for the month. So what better way to do this than to look at those cheesy little movies, romantic comedies. Oh they are so much fun. I would be lying if I said that I did not love them. They are movies that portray that romance that all of us secretly desire. Whether it is the woman porn romantic comedies that Nicholas Sparks creates in his books turned movies like The Notebook or that manic pixie dream girl that helps the lost male protagonist discover the meaning of life and relationships like in 500 Days of Summer, romantic comedies have a little something for the hopeless romantic in all of us. They rarely if ever are grounded in any form of reality, but that is what suspension of disbelief is for I suppose. Romantic comedies, when they are good can be that movie that sticks with you forever. Something to watch after a break up or when you are feeling down or lonely… But when they are bad… Oh buddy they can be some of the worst saccharine sweet schmaltzy crap you will ever have the displeasure of sitting through and will from that moment on only be left to the few that either enjoy the movie or for the people like me who will nitpick it to death on the internet until the creators curl up in a fetal position and cry themselves to sleep.
So for the month of February, I will be dedicating my Tuesday reviews to these quirky and cheerful movies. The movies that make us laugh and make us love, the cheesy romantic comedies. With that in mind, I cannot think of a better place to start off Cheesy Romance Month than with the two queens of romantic comedies in the 1990’s Nora Ephron and Meg Ryan. These two were giants in the 90’s and together held a vice grip on the Romantic Comedy Genre until the 2000’s. Sleepless in Seattle, French Kiss, and When Harry Met Sally (which started this whole mess) all have at least one or both of their names on it. Now out of all of these movies, there are only two that the two worked together on; The aforementioned and much more successful Sleepless in Seattle… and the heavily dated and everything that is wrong with the genre on the whole You’ve Got Mail. Written and directed by Ephron, starring Meg Ryan, all around friendly dude Tom Hanks, and adapted from a Jimmy Stewart movie which was in turn adapted from a play written by Miklos Laszlo You’ve Got Mail was the cheesy romance that practically derailed the romantic comedy genre for several years. Although receiving decent reviews upon its release, the blatant product placement, dated material, and a contrived romance has made this movie the black sheep of the Nora Ephron/Meg Ryan Rom Com 90’s powerhouse.
You’ve Got Mail is the story of Kathleen Kelly (Meg Ryan), a owner of a small bookstore on the Upper West Side of New York. She has a decent life, running her bookstore and dating a left wing writer for the New York Observer Frank Navasky (Greg Kinnear), and messaging people on her American Online email where she goes by the alias ‘Shopgirl’. There she meets another person from New York named ‘NY 152’ and they instantly hit it off. However all is not right with this cheesy romance as NY 152 turns out to be a man named Joe Fox, the owner of a mega chain of bookstores called Barnes &- I mean Fox Books. With the new super store, this threatens to run Kathleen’s quaint little bookstore out of business. Of course, hi jinks ensue as Kathleen and Joe continue their courtship online while they bicker about the opening of the new conglomerate pushes Kathleen out of business and feud with their obviously wrong for each other disposable love interests.
Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan Have Good Chemistry, Though Hanks (And everyone else) is Horribly Miscast
It is clear why Hanks and Ryan were cast for these roles. Not only were they huge when this movie was released in 1998, but they also have great chemistry. Just watch Sleepless in Seattle to see Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks work at their best. They are absolutely electrifying. You’ve Got Mail is no exception. Ryan and Hanks look good together and work well together. It is a sure fire bet that these two will at least be able to carry a movie and the attention of the audience, which they do.
However I cannot help but feel that Hanks is horribly miscast. As a matter of fact, everyone except for Meg Ryan seems horribly miscast in this movie. Meg Ryan is being her Meg Ryan self so really all you have to do is insert her into the movie and you cannot go wrong. But everyone else just seems to not fit in their roles. Dave Chappelle, who surprisingly shows up in this movie as the guys ‘wing man supporter’ that seems to be a trope of the genre does not feel like he would be one to exposit such words of wisdom to Tom Hanks’ character. Granted, this might be because of the later years of Chappelle’s career which includes The Chappelle Show but I’m not sure. Greg Kinnear… I kind of get, but I feel like you could have found a better choice than him at the time. Hell if you want a wacky left wing propagandist, you could have gone with Sean Penn. It wasn’t like the guy was doing much in between Dead Man Walking and Thin Red Line.
But the worst offense of all of this is clearly Tom Hanks. The man is one hell of an actor, now considered one of the best of this generation. But damn this guy just does not give off the business man douchebag persona. Tom Hanks has all the charm and likability of a teddy bear. You just cannot hate the guy, no matter how hard you try. Granted it is supposed to be portrayed that Hanks’ character redeems himself but even then, I could not find myself angry at Hanks for one second. You could have picked any actor who had a bit of a rough edge to him to give off that aura and Ryan could have adapted. The woman is one hell of an actress. But instead they went with the sure fire bet. Although it works, I feel like it could have been better.
If you thought The Secret Life of Walter Mitty was bad with its product placement… That is a subtle place of a sign in the background compared to You’ve Got Mail and its product placement for AOL (among other companies). Hell! That cheesy as balls catch phrase that has become synonymous with the 90’s is the damn name of the film! While it is only my own personal conspiracy at work here, I would not be surprised if the people at AOL called up Warner Brothers and just shelled out $65 million dollars to create a two hour commercial with a love story and Starbucks also chipping in a few dollars for a quick call out here and there.
What is really funny is that the whole story seems to be a jab at these large conglomerates that are funding the movie. But I suppose that all comes around near the end of the film when Kathleen walks into Fox Books and sees a lovely home where New Yorkers can go to relax and unwind. Either way, the obscene amounts of product placement is enough to make you moan every time you hear those damn words ‘You’ve Got Mail’ or see some AOL picture or Starbucks send up show up on the screen.
It is Out Dated
I do wonder how many of the people who read this will even remember the terms ‘dial up’ or ‘You’ve Got Mail’, back in the day when we all got suckered in to AOL’s shitty fly by night internet services. This movie while all be it decent on its released has not aged well at all. Instead of achieving a timeless classic status, it becomes synonymous with the 90’s with that one damn title. Welcome to ‘Decade Association Movie Hell’ You’ve Got Mail. The only people who will even give you a try is those who watch it for 90’s nostalgia or people of the future who have to wonder, what was it like to be alive during the 1990’s.
It Represents the Worst Parts of the Genre
Everything that people pick apart about Rom Coms is present in this movie. First off, the female protagonist. Until just recently, the female protagonist in movies like this are the same. It is the obsessed business woman who is too busy for a fulfilling relationship, all the while being in an unfulfilled relationship, and is waiting for the right man to come into her life in the most unexpected way. Meg Ryan got a lot flack for this while she was doing her 90’s Rom Coms days. But out of all of them, this one feels like one of the worst culprits. Mainly because their is nothing else really attached to it. She runs a business in the Upper West side of Manhattan and is dating Greg Kinnear, but clearly the one thing that would make her life perfect is a Joe Fox and to ditch the annoying writer. I am not saying that her character should have stayed with the Greg Kinnear or that she should be happy in life when she wasn’t. All I am saying is that this trope has been used before and nothing new is brought to it. There is no curve ball, no change. It is a rinse and repeat formula that was beginning to grow old by the time this movie was released.
Then there is of course the supporting cast. Both the male and female leads have their disposable love interests. The people that is ‘completely wrong’ for them to be ditched near the third act so the two mains can get together. Say what you will about Reese Witherspoon’s Sweet Home Alabama, at least it tried to play with this concept by making two male leads who were clearly compatible for her character instead of here where it is clear that these two will be cut loose once the mains realize they need to bone and bone hard. You also have the male’s ‘wing man’ in Dave Chappelle. This guy appears in a lot of cheesy romances including one of my favorite movies Silver Lining’s Playbook. This guy is the guy who is always there for the male lead to tell him the obvious and show him that he truly loves this woman.
And of course finally we have Tom Hanks character. He is the male lead and the kind of a dick guy who is clearly redeemable if he would only find the right woman to settle down. He has his problems, but nothing that the female lead cannot handle. The gang is all here! It is a rinse and repeat cast with no new thrills added in. It is everything that people pick apart about a Rom Com with no redeemable qualities added to it. Granted they do not necessarily do it wrong… But this is by no means a redeemable area.
As the years have past, this movie has aged like a carton of two week expired milk in the summer sun. It is passable as a movie. You won’t finish watching in utter disgust. But still, it represents so many things that are wrong with the movie genre that it is hard to find anything else of worth to it. It is named after an out dated and blatant product placement slogan, it has all the bad tropes of a Romantic Comedy, and it is horribly miscast. This is one Rom Com that is just plain bad and is best left in the 90’s time capsule it sealed itself in.
Final Score 1.5/5
Not everything is going to be this nasty for Cheesy Romance Month. No, this is the month of love and we should portray it here on Tanner Reviews! Next week I will be sure to pick something with double the cheese and less of the sour milk. Please return Thursday for another post from me and on Sunday for a new release.