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MGM Studios DVD presents
When Harry Met Sally... (1989)

Sally: I'm too structured, I'm completely closed off.
Harry: But in a good way.
Sally: No, no, no I drove him away, and I'm going to be forty.
Harry: When?
Sally: Someday.
Harry: In eight years.

- Meg Ryan, Billy Crystal

Review By: Joel Cunningham   
Published: February 26, 2001

Stars: Meg Ryan, Billy Crystal
Other Stars: Bruno Kirby, Carrie Fisher
Director: Rob Reiner

Manufacturer: WAMO
MPAA Rating: R for (language and sexual discussions)
Run Time: 01h:35m:23s
Release Date: January 09, 2001
UPC: 027616857804
Genre: romantic comedy


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
A AB+B+ B

DVD Review

Recently, MGM began labeling the tops of their DVD cases with little tags that are meant to describe the type of movie you are buying. For example, B-movies from the 1950s are released under "Midnight Movies." Foreign films are released under "World Cinema," art films under "Avant-Garde." One of the most beguiling categories is "Contemporary Classics." I mean, it seems to be a viable category, but their choices don't always make sense. For example, the 1993 film The Cutting Edge is a favorite of several of my friends here at school. Sure, it is an entertaining film with some decent performances, but all it really offers is a formulaic romance and a cookie-cutter script. Yet, in their wisdom, MGM has released it as a "Contemporary Classic." That being said, I see no problem with the inclusion of When Harry Met Sally in this line of films. It is probably my favorite movie of all time, and generally recognized as one of the best romantic comedies of the last few decades.

Harry and Sally are both neurotic (but in an affecting, Woody Allen-ish sort of way). The two meet because they are both moving to New York after graduation from the University of Chicago (yay!). Harry is going to be a lawyer. Sally wants to go to graduate school to become a gymnast ("Journalist. "Right, that's what I said, a journalist."). During the car trip, the two discuss their philosophies on life, the movies, and sex. Needless to say, the two mix about as well as John Ashcroft and the Democratic Party. They part ("That's too bad. You were the only person I knew in New York."), only to meet up again, by chance, in an airport. It seems fate wants them to be together. Unfortunately, they are still as neurotic as ever. Sally is uptight; Harry is extremely morbid. It will take a lot of work (and a lot of time) for these two to become friends (or more than friends).

I think the reason this film was so successful was that it skirted the usual romantic comedy clich&eacue;s. There is no "meet cute." There are no obstacles for the couples to overcome (being from different worlds, having difficult families, stupid sitcom-like misunderstandings). The only thing keeping these two people apart is the fact that they are both so darn difficult to live with. Of course, this was also one of the first romantic comedies to really examine the differences between men and women when it comes to sex (like I know what I'm talking about, but whatever...). Harry and Sally say things that, frankly, men and women would probably not want to know about each other, and they have trouble dealing with the true incompatibility of the sexes.

Nora Ephron is credited with the screenplay, but she gives some of the praise to Billy Crystal and Rob Reiner, who helped her flesh out the "male" side of the story. The dialogue is often funny, and always endearing. I can think of hundreds of excellent quotes from this film. It took me forever to decide which one to use to highlight the review!

Meg Ryan and Billy Crystal share some real chemistry on the screen. Ryan, in her first starring role, really brings Sally to life, quirkiness intact. I believe the goal of a good romantic comedy should be to have every male walk out of the audience in love with the female lead, and I fall for Sally every time I see this film. Crystal is no slouch, either. Harry would seem to be a rather simple, surface character, but Crystal gives him a lot of depth with his nuanced, screwball performance. Imagine a more articulate version of Woody Allen from Annie Hall, and that's Harry.

Rob Reiner really had a hot streak going in the 1980s. He made, within the span of eight years, four films that have become true "Contemporary Classics:" This is Spinal Tap, Stand By Me, The Princess Bride, and When Harry Met Sally. This film capped a decade of work for Reiner that I'm sure will be difficult to top. However, even if he'd never made another film, When Harry Met Sally would've been a fitting end to his (or any) career.

Rating for Style: A
Rating for Substance: A

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio1.85:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicyes


Image Transfer Review: I was very, very pleased with the transfer on this disc, especially after enduring years of my muddy, much watched VHS copy. MGM has restored the film to the original 1.85:1 ratio, and it looks great. Black level is excellent, as are shadows. Colors look rich and saturated, with the golden hues of New York in the fall coming through beautifully. I noticed no digital artifacting and just a spot of edge enhancement in one or two scenes. I am very happy to see this film looking so good.

Image Transfer Grade: B+

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishyes


Audio Transfer Review: The audio sounds good as well, but the track certainly couldn't be called dynamic. This is a comedy, so most everything comes from the front soundstage. The surrounds only come into play during the football scene near the beginning of the film, but when they do, they fill out the soundstage nicely, providing some nice directional effects. Otherwise, everything is up front. Dialogue is very clear and always understandable and natural. The score and songs (by Harry Connick, Jr.) sounds great as well, with support from the surrounds highlighting the Connick pieces.

Audio Transfer Grade: B+

 

Disc Extras

Animated menu with music
Scene Access with 16 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in Spanish, French with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
2 Other Trailer(s) featuring This is Spinal Tap, The Princess Bride
7 Deleted Scenes
Production Notes
1 Documentaries
1 Feature/Episode commentary by Director Rob Reiner
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: RSDL
Layers Switch: 00h:50m:22s

Extra Extras:
  1. Harry Connick, Jr. music video
Extras Review: MGM has provided some very nice supplements for this release. There is some stuff here that I am sure even the hardcore fans of When Harry Met Sally have not seen before.

The documentary "How Harry Met Sally" is no mere promo featurette. Produced recently, it features retrospective interviews with nearly all of the film's talent, including Reiner, Carrie Fisher, Billy Crystal, and Nora Ephron. Only Meg Ryan and Bruno Kirby are absent, but taped segments from the time of the film's production provide us with some of their comments. I suppose Meg was off making Proof of Life when this was made... In retrospect (the film bombed and caused her marriage to break up), perhaps she should have chosen to do the documentary instead... Anyway, even without her presence, this is a very entertaining look at the film, and one of the better such documentaries I have seen. It runs about 33 minutes and features anecdotes about how the story was formed, cast, and produced. All of this is deftly cut with film segments that enhance what is being said. I especially enjoyed the section on the infamous "diner scene," with Rob Reiner's impression of an, uh..., "O", intercut with Meg Ryan's film performance.

The director commentary with Reiner is much less entertaining. I watched about 45 minutes of it and really felt I'd be better served by shutting it off and just enjoying the film again. While he does provide some interesting comments, most have already been covered in the documentary. In addition, as the film goes on, he talks less and less. By the final half of the movie, I actually forgot that I was watching the commentary, as Reiner would sit silent for 10 minutes or more.

The real prize, for me, were the 7 deleted scenes provided. Except for the first, I feel all were justifiably cut from the final film, but that doesn't mean they aren't funny. The second one in particular had me laughing quite loud. All 7 scenes are presented in widescreen and in fairly good quality.

Closing out the disc are a number of promo materials. Included are the video for the Harry Connick cover of It Had to Be You, trailers for When Harry Met Sally (presented in widescreen) and two other MGM/Rob Reiner films: The Princess Bride (full frame) and Spinal Tap (widescreen).

Extras Grade: B

 

Final Comments

If you don't want to see one of the best romantic comedies of the last 20 years, don't buy When Harry Met Sally. The same goes for those of you who hate brilliant, funny, and revealing dialogue. Oh, and I'm sure there are some of you who are loath to see a realistic romantic relationship depicted on screen. This movie is not for you. Everyone else, on the other hand, probably already loves this film (or soon will). Thank your deity of choice that MGM did a great job with this DVD...and have some of what I'm having.

 


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