Ancient Evenings

Jeffrey Katzenberg retells the Book of Exodus and Gus Van Sant re-creates Psycho, so Nora Ephron updates Ernst Lubitsch's 1940 The Shop Around the Corner. It's a less sacred text, to be sure, and, in any case, Ephron's You've Got Mail (written with her sister Delia Ephron) is more like a rerun of her own Sleepless in Seattle.

The technological gimmick substitutes e-mail for talk radio but the stars are the same. Bounding from her bed in oversized men's pajamas, Meg Ryan is more a cartoon creature than any to be found in Prince of Egypt. Tom Hanks is less adorable, but Ephron has taken care to surround him with appropriate props— big dog, little kids, bitch-on-wheels girlfriend (Parker Posey, suggesting an evil-twin mockery of Ryan's pert bunny act). Unbeknownst to their significant others, Hanks and Ryan are carrying on an anonymous cybercorrespondence. In the real world, she operates a quaint children's bookstore while he's about to rock her world by opening a giant discount book emporium. That both live on the Upper West Side not only allows them to cross paths in Zabar's but facilitates a smug and cloying atmosphere— part faux Woody, part New York Times "Metropolitan Diary"— that can reference PEN dinners and poke fun at Victor Navasky.

Moses supposes: leading the Hebrews out of Egypt
Dreamworks, Inc
Moses supposes: leading the Hebrews out of Egypt


Prince of Egypt
A DreamWorks release
Directed by Brenda Chapman, Steve Hickner, and Simon Wells
Written by Philip LaZebnik
Opens December 18

The Emperor's Shadow
Directed by Zhou Xiaowen
A Fox Lorber release
At the Cinema Village
Opens December 18

You've Got Mail
Directed by Nora Ephron
Written by Nora and Delia Ephron
A Warner Bros. release
Opens December 18

You've Got Mail is not only about PCs; it appears to have been dictated by one. Too sophisticated to subscribe to her own formula but too cynical to do anything else, Ephron strives mightily to keep her unnatural cuteness on life-support. Although You've Got Mail is devoid of genuine feeling, a tin-eared selection of strident pop tunes have been strategically dubbed in as emotional cues. The movie is desperate enough to pump up "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" for the big scene. Call it the Ephron touch.

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