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Rob Reiner
Billy Crystal, Meg Ryan, Carrie Fisher, Bruno Kirby, Steven Ford, Lisa Jane Persky, Michelle Nicastro
Writing Credits:
Nora Ephron

Can two friends sleep together and still love each other in the morning?

Does sex make it impossible for men and women to be true friends? The film chronicles this dilemma through the eleven year relationship between Harry and Sally who meet in college, then pursue their own lives until they reconnect ten years later.

Box Office:
$16 million.
Opening Weekend
$1.094 million on 41 screens.
Domestic Gross
$92.823 million.

Rated R

Widescreen 1.85:1/16x9
English Dolby Digital 5.1
English Dolby Surround 2.0
French Dolby Surround 2.0
Spanish Dolby Surround 2.0
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 95 min.
Price: $19.98
Release Date: 1/15/2008

• Audio Commentary with Director Rob Reiner, Writer Nora Ephron, and Actor Billy Crystal
• Seven Deleted Scenes
• Seven Featurettes
• Trailer


Sony 36" WEGA KV-36FS12 Monitor; Sony DA333ES Processor/Receiver; Panasonic CV-50 DVD Player using component outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Sony SA-WM40 Subwoofer.


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When Harry Met Sally: Collector's Edition (1989)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (January 28, 2008)

Looking back, we can see that 1989’s When Harry Met Sally… marked a turning point for Rob Reiner as a director. He helmed five movies in the 1980s, and except for Stand By Me, all came in the comedy genre. Each of these flicks boasted different perspectives, however, as we went from the parody of 1984’s This Is Spinal to the teen shenanigans of 1985’s The Sure Thing to the fairy tale fantasy of 1987’s The Princess Bride to the more standard romantic comedy of Harry.

So why do I view Harry as a dividing line in Reiner’s directorial career? Because it marked his last real comedy for quite some time. Reiner moved to psychological horror with 1990’s Misery and courtroom drama with 1992’s A Few Good Men. I guess 1994’s North was a comedy, but it was such a misbegotten mess that it may defy categorization. Reiner wouldn’t hit on the romantic comedy territory of Harry until 2003’s Alex and Emma.

Since I’d not seen Harry for years and years, I was curious to give it a fresh spin. As you can infer from the title, the film revolves around two characters: Harry Burns (Billy Crystal) and Sally Albright (Meg Ryan). When we first meet them, they’re recent college grads stuck together on a long road trip to New York. They don’t know each other but they learn a lot over this extended trek. Since he’s cynical pig and she’s an uptight pixie, they have nothing in common and assume they’ll never see each other when their journey ends.

Of course, the relationship doesn’t end there. We jump ahead five years as Harry and Sally bump into each other on a flight. Another conversation ala the earlier one ensues, and it concludes in a similar manner. They bicker and move along without any further ado.

Once more, we skip to five years later and revisit our leads. By coincidence, both of them hit the end of long-term relationships and happen to run into each other at a bookstore. This means they resume their spotty relationship. The rest of the flick follows the evolution of their partnership, as they dance around romance and friendship.

As I write this, I’ve not checked out any of the DVD’s extras, so I may find answers there. If not, I’d love to know whether or not Reiner and all else involved consciously decided to make a Woody Allen movie. From the jazz score to the simple opening credits to the New York setting to – well, pretty much to everything, Harry looks and feels an awful lot like something from the Woodman’s canon. I could easily see Woody in the Harry role, and Sally has Diane Keaton written all over her. If the folks behind Harry don’t recognize a substantial Allen influence, they’re either lying or in complete denial.

Not that this makes Harry a rip-off or something without its own merits, and I don’t want my comments to indicate I find it to be an Allen clone. While I could clearly see Woody and Diane in the lead roles, neither Crystal nor Ryan play the parts ala those influences. Crystal’s Harry is a much more rough-hewn, blue collar character than Allen would make him, and Ryan’s Sally is more uptight and less ditzy and free-spirited than a typical Keaton personality.

I’d say that Crystal and Ryan are probably the main reason Harry doesn’t sink into a morass of sappiness. Actually, it occasionally does fall into those traps, but at least the leads present pretty good chemistry and likeability. I can even almost get past the absurd notion that Crystal plays a 22-year-old at the film’s start – though barely, as even by the flick’s conclusion, he always looks way too old for the role. Harry’s only supposed to be 35 at the finish, but Crystal looks closer to 45. (He was actually 40 at the time, whereas Ryan was a mere 27.) We have to swallow disbelief hard to accept him as a much younger man, but this stretch of reality doesn’t really mar the movie.

I must admit that while I find Harry to be pleasant and generally entertaining, I can’t say that it ever becomes something special. For the most part, I fail to find much to criticize here. Granted, I do hate the “documentary interviews” with elderly couples. These pop up sporadically during the film, as they present old folks who reminisce about how they met and fell in love. It seems like a dopey and pointless conceit that adds nothing to the flick. It doesn’t help that actors play all the parts; though the stories come from real folks, none of the ones seen here form actual couples. This makes the device tacky as well as lame.

Otherwise, Harry fails to push many buttons for me, either good or bad. I think it works best in its first act, as the characters butt heads while they get to know each other. Once they became best friends, the movie loses some steam, partially because it neuters Harry. He goes from sexist and crude – but interesting – to some bland Ken doll for little apparent reason. I suppose that this looked like growth in the Sensitive Guy era of the 1980s, but almost 20 years later, it feels more like Harry just became a wuss with no personality.

This doesn’t kill the movie, though, and it maintains my basic interest as it plods toward its inevitable conclusion. (I won’t reveal the ending, but it shouldn’t take more than two brain cells to figure out the finale.) When Harry Met Sally… has endured as a popular flick for almost 20 years, so obviously more than a few folks really like it. As for me, I think it has entertainment value but never turns into something that really soars. Sheldon

The DVD Grades: Picture B+/ Audio C+/ Bonus B

When Harry Met Sally… appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Not too many concerns cropped up in this strong transfer.

Sharpness almost always looked good. A few slightly soft shots showed up along the way, but the vast majority of the flick seemed crisp and well-defined. Though I saw a little shimmering on occasion, jagged edges and edge enhancement appeared to be absent. Source flaws were also essentially non-existent. Some light grain occurred, and a small speck or two popped up, but that was it.

Colors seemed very nice. The movie used a natural palette that came to life well. The hues were consistently warm and full. Blacks also seemed dark and firm, while shadows showed nice delineation and smoothness. I found a lot to like in this fine image.

As for the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of Harry, it seemed wholly unexceptional. This was a bland soundfield without muchb to make it stand out from the crowd. Music did show nice stereo delineation, and effects spread to the sides in a minor manner. Some directional dialogue cropped for the splitscreen shots of Harry and Sally. Surround usage was exceedingly modest, as the back speakers added almost nothing. This was a chatty flick without much breadth to the soundscape.

Audio quality was fine. Though speech showed occasional signs of edginess, the lines usually appeared acceptably natural and concise. Music was similarly low-key, but the jazz songs and score demonstrated decent range and fullness. Effects never taxed my system, as they were accurate but without much punch. This was an adequate track and that was about it.

As we move to the extras, we open with an audio commentary from director Rob Reiner, writer Nora Ephron, and actor Billy Crystal. All three sit together for this running, screen-specific chat. They tell us about the project’s origins and development as well as cast and performances, music, locations, inspirations and characters, hair and costumes, and some scene specifics.

The commentary starts very well, as its first few minutes provide a lot of good information. After that, it becomes more erratic. The participants still offer many nice insights, but dead air becomes a bit of an issue, and the conversation sometimes devolves into simple praise. The second half of the movie proves especially dull, as we don’t hear much of interest during that span. I do think the track merits a listen, as it presents some nice notes and a few funny moments, but it’s not consistently satisfying.

Note that this commentary replaces Reiner’s solo chat from the 2001 DVD of Harry. I never listened to that track, but I’ve heard bad things about it. Since I’ve also been bored by most of Reiner’s other commentaries, I’m very happy the 2008 DVD replaces the old piece with this new one. It would’ve been nice to get both, though, even though I imagine the old Reiner track would be fairly redundant.

Seven Deleted Scenes run a total of seven minutes, 19 seconds. These include “Harry Does Impressions” (0:35), “How Many Men Have You Slept With?” (1:01), “Sally’s Bad Date” (1:00), “Sleepless Night” (0:35), “I Blew It” (0:27), “Harry and Sally on the Couch” (1:48) and “I Was Just Walking Down the Street” (1:53). The first two come from Harry and Sally’s original road trip; both are funny. “Date” just reinforces the inevitability of the Harry/Sally romantic relationship, while “Night” and “Blew” follow up on their night of passion; none of them add much, and they seem pretty redundant. The final two come from the “documentary interviews”. I don’t like any of those “documentary” bits, so I’m glad this tedious nonsense got the boot.

We also find seven different featurettes. It All Started Like This goes for 19 minutes, 46 seconds and gives us a chat between Reiner and Ephron. They discuss the film’s origins and its development. They tell us about different drafts of the script, alternate title options, and some other aspects of the production. If you listened to the commentary, you’ll already know a lot of their details. Some new notes appear – such as the other title concepts – but there’s not much fresh information on display.

(By the way, this is the second time Ephron claims that the fake orgasm scene is the only reason Harry got an “R” rating. Sorry, Nora, but even without that sequence, the flick would’ve been an “R”. It throws around too many “F-bombs” for a “PG-13”.)

Next comes the five-minute and nine-second Stories of Love. It features Reiner, Crystal, and film critic Thelma Adams. The piece looks at the “documentary” stories with married couples that pop up during the flick as well as Reiner’s personal tale of romance on the set. Again, much of this repeats from the commentary, so don’t anticipate much fresh content.

For When Rob Met Billy, we locate a three-minute and 56-second piece. It features Reiner and Crystal as they tell us how they got to know each other as well as their collaboration on Harry. For once we find some new details, and the pair throw out a good mix of notes in this short piece.

Creating Harry lasts five minutes, 46 seconds and presents notes from Reiner, Crystal, Adams, Ephron, film critic Richard Roeper and actor Carrie Fisher. They look at inspirations for Harry’s personality and the evolution of the character. Some of these elements repeat from the commentary, but there’s enough new material – especially from Crystal – to make it worthwhile.

After this we get the eight-minute and 28-second I Love New York. It gives us notes from Roeper, Adams, Ephron, Crystal, Fisher, Reiner and production designer Jane Musky. The show covers production design and shooting in New York. A reasonable amount of useful notes appear here, with Musky’s comments the best of the bunch.

During the 12-minute and 29-second What Harry Meeting Sally Meant, we hear from Ephron, Reiner, Crystal, Adams, Roeper and Fisher. They offer an appraisal of the film and what makes it so well-regarded. This means a few nice insights but mostly a lot of praise.

Finally, So, Can Men and Women Really Be Friends? fills seven minutes, 52 seconds with statements from Reiner, Fisher, Crystal, sex therapist Dr. Jane Greer and Queens College Professor of Sociology Dr. Andrew Beveridge. They entertain the age-old question posed in the featurette’s title. Don’t expect real answers, but the show proves surprisingly fun and involving. I especially like Fisher’s cynicism about people who say “I’m married to my best friend” – right after we hear Reiner say that about his wife.

In addition to the film’s trailer, we get a few other ads. There’s a promo for “MGM Romance” as well as a clip for West Side Story.

On the surface, the combination of romance and the wit of Billy Crystal should make When Harry Met Sally… perfect date night compromise material, as it should have enough to make both men and women happy. In reality, it’s more palatable than true “chick flick” malarkey, but it definitely leans toward the “XX” side of the street. This makes it moderately entertaining but a little too sappy for my liking. The DVD presents very good picture quality with average audio and a reasonable collection of extras. I’m not wild about the movie, but this DVD release serves it well.

Viewer Film Ratings: 4.4545 Stars Number of Votes: 11
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