Plot: Harry (Billy Crystal) has just graduated from college and is about to uproot his life to start his new career, moving from Chicago to New York. His girlfriend has a friend who is also headed to New York, so Harry joins Sally (Meg Ryan) for a cross country road trip to save expenses. The two couldn’t be much more opposite, so the trip brings out all kinds of drama and arguments between them. Once the trip ends, the two are glad to part ways, but over the next decade or so, continue to cross paths at various points in their lives. After both experience failed long term relationships, Harry and Sally meet once again and this time, strike up a friendship over their common woes and the trials of the dating world. The two even try to play matchmaker for each other, setting up dates with their best friends, only to have their friends fall for each other, leaving Harry and Sally alone once again. Although some tension exists between the two, Sally is hesitant to cross the line as friends, but is it just curiosity after years of friendship or is there a true spark between Harry and Sally?
Entertainment Value: A rare instance where a romantic comedy evades most of the tropes and focuses on narrative, characters, and development over forced emotion and saccharine sweetness, When Harry Met Sally remains a popular movie and one of the genre’s more lasting entries. So even if you don’t normally appreciate the romcom formula, this is one that while still predictable, might be able to entertain you more than most. The story follows a typical “will they, won’t they” routine with some odd couple dynamics, but does so without falling into the usual romcom tropes too much and keeping a sharp, often cynical lens. The writing is quite good and the movie invests the time to develop the characters to a much deeper level than most comedies, but is able to do so without slowing the pace much. Perhaps the movie runs a little long, but it stays on track and doesn’t waste much time, so while indulgent, that extra time spent pays off in a myriad of ways. The genre doesn’t often have this kind of character depth and patience, so the movie is quite unique in that regard. At the same time, it still feels like a romcom and for those with a real aversion to these light, fluff comedies, When Harry Met Sally still isn’t likely to convert them into fans. But for those who appreciate romcoms or light comedies, I’d rank this as one of the better romantic comedies, so it earns a more than solid recommendation.
The movie has a great lineup of talent involved, but Billy Crystal and Meg Ryan have the leads and given how dialogue driven the film is, they needed strong chemistry to have the banter seem natural. The two deliver on that front, with a nice adversarial, but familiar dynamic that works quite well. Crystal is up to his usual tricks, so he has charm and skilled dialogue cadence, but doesn’t bring much new to the table. He plays to his strengths however, so his effort here is strong and fans of his comedic style should have a lot of fun with this one. Meg Ryan is given a little more of a chance to go outside her normal routine, as a less likable, but still fun character. That is one thing I really like about When Harry Met Sally, as our leads aren’t adorable, always likable people, but flawed and sometimes even assholes. That allows for a more natural feel and lets the emotional beats be more effective, since the work is put in to develop the characters as more than heart string pullers. The cast also includes Bruno Kirby, Carrie Fisher, Harley Jane Kozak, and Steven Ford.
The Disc: Shout Factory’s Blu-ray boasts a new 4k scan and looks excellent, a massive improvement over previous home video incarnations. The print looks nearly flawless, with minimal signs and wear, while detail levels are remarkable. A lot more of the finer detail comes through here and while perhaps the movie isn’t a visual feast, it does benefit from this new scan. The colors look bright and contrast is on the mark, so for fans, this is the definitive version to have in your collection. The lone new extra is a conversation with Billy Crystal and Rob Reiner, while the extras from the older releases have been ported over as well. This includes two audio commentaries with Reiner, one a solo track that is a total snooze and a second with Reiner, Crystal, and writer Nora Ephron that is much more informative. You can also watch a half hour documentary on how the movie was made, several promotional featurettes, a Harry Connick Jr. music video, deleted scenes, and the film’s trailer.