Nora Ephron wrote the brisk screenplay for this 1989 romantic comedy, director Rob Reiner made a nicely glossy New York story (very much in a Woody Allen vein) out of it, and Billy Crystal's unstoppable charm made it something really special. Crystal and Meg Ryan play longtime platonic friends who keep dancing around their deeper feelings for one another, and Bruno Kirby and Carrie Fisher are their respective pals who fall in love and get married. Ryan doesn't get a lot of funny material, but her performance is typically alive and intuitive, and she more than holds her own with Crystal's comic motor mouth and sweet sentimentality. Reiner is on comfortable ground, liberated from the burden of making serious statements in the lead-footed manner of subsequent features. --Tom Keogh
On the DVD
The Collector's Edition offers seven new featurettes (the previous Special Edition only had one documentary), beginning with a sit-down between director Rob Reiner and writer Nora Ephron waxing nostalgic on how the movie originated: He, recently divorced from Penny Marshall, was a miserable single man, while she was the screenwriter who rejected his initial pitch over lunch ("It was a shame," she remembers, "because we hadn't even eaten yet."). It's easy to see that Reiner is clearly Harry, and Ephron is clearly Sally: He's the squawking chatterbox and she's constantly corrects his memory (Sally's meticulous method of ordering food is also a direct rip-off of Ephron herself). Other featurettes show Billy Crystal's attempts to play Harry (or Reiner, as it were); location filming in New York; the love stories that served as interludes between scenes (again, the counselors-at-camp story is from Ephron's parents); the significance of the film over time; and more discussion on the film's famous question: "Can men and women really be friends?" Most of the stories from the featurettes are recycled in the new film commentary by Reiner, Ephron, and Crystal (Reiner mentions that the "I'll have what she's having" line, spoken by his mother, is in the top 10 of AFI's top 100 movie lines no less than five times overall), but the inclusion of Crystal, who contributed many improvised lines in the movie, makes for a nice easygoing repartee. Fans may be interested to know that Reiner originally thought Harry and Sally shouldn't get together, until he himself fell in love with his future wife on the set, but the most hilarious tidbit involves Reiner storming the production offices and polling all the women on whether or not they "fake it" because didn't believe that really happened. Seven deleted scenes--which were also included in the previous version--and original theatrical trailer round out the set, but Harry Connick Jr.'s "It Had to Be You" music video is missing. Still, the special features are a great look into a romantic comedy that clearly remains a meaningful experience for cast, crew, and audience alike. --Ellen A. Kim Expires Feb 17, 2013

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