3 Meg-and-Tom Flicks Our Kids Watch on Repeat
Co-starring phone calls, emails, and natural disasters.
A couple years back we got some work done to our house that required temporarily relocating to a downtown apartment. The loft would have been very cool for one person; it was less cool for our six-creature crowd. Yes, two stubborn adults, two perfect children, and two filthy cats dwelled in what was basically a gigantic studio for an entire season. A few pretty great things happened while we were on top of each other, though: L.B., then eight, opened a renegade booth called Miss Little Banana’s Banana Bread Stand on the fringes of the farmer’s market outside our front door. (She cleaned up on tips.) The UVA men’s basketball team won the national championship. And both kids fell in love with Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks and the repeated ’90s pairings thereof, confirming our suspicion that they’re the most all-American children this side of the Mississippi. And that they have great taste, of course.
Sleepless in Seattle (1993; rent from $2.99): L.B. and I first watched this Nora Ephron classic together on a rainy afternoon. We didn’t talk much, with the exception of quick explanations about what the heck even were radio call-in shows and landlines. At the end of the hour-and-forty-five-minute movie, our widower Sam Baldwin (Hanks) and hopeless romantic Annie Reed (Ryan) were embracing atop the Empire State Building and L.B. and I were quietly weeping. Fast forward a couple of weeks and L.B. wanted to watch Sleepless in Seattle again, only this time she insisted on sharing it with her four-years-older brother. Both kids have since watched it yet again, and each time like to point out that Annie’s sidekick/best friend, Becky, is “that lady from A League of Their Own”—aka Rosie O’Donnell.
You’ve Got Mail (1998; HBO Max): Why didn’t anyone tell me how charming this movie is?! OK, the entire world did. Yet my alter ego (I call her Superior Svetlana) got in the way, and I didn’t watch Ephron’s Meg-and-Tom follow-up until circa two years ago. And yep, it’s a total delight. Fellow skeptics: Not only is this a dawning email-era remake of The Shop Around the Corner (1940; HBO Max), wherein a thinly veiled Barnes & Noble (run by Hanks’s family) tries to big-foot an indie kids’ bookshop (owned by Ryan), it’s a vehicle for tons of clever pop-culture references and some of my—and undoubtedly your— favorite actors: Dave Chappelle, Parker Posey, and Steve Zahn! Greg Kinnear, Dabney Coleman, and Chris Messina also show up. And it involves a journalism subplot—the best kind of subplot. Our kids didn’t get all the jokes, but they enjoyed the fizzy dialogue and the screwball plot. There may have even been some hollering at the screen (“That’s him! That’s the guy you’ve been emailing with!”). Plus: The opportunity for ogling of the Upper West Side in its most Ephronic glory, at least on the parents’ part.
Joe Versus the Volcano (1990; rent from $2.99): Long before I was an esteemed high-school employee of my local Video Library, I was an excellent customer, via my mom’s membership and my dad’s wad of Friday-night cash. Written and directed by John Patrick Shanley (a great writer with a spottier track record on the directing front), Joe Versus the Volcano is an absolutely bonkers movie, in which Hanks plays a burned-out worker bee who in some kind of metaphysical awakening ends up heading to Hawaii to jump into a volcano (I think as a sacrifice? I did rewatch it recently but this movie is so nuts that it’s hard to keep track of all the details). As a child, it was one of my go-to rentals. A few months back, as an experiment, I screened it for my husband and our kids. My husband, James, kept trying to intellectualize the whole thing (“It’s so Dada! Kids, do you know about Dadaism?” he’d say, confusing our children who sweetly still refer to him as Dada). H.B. and L.B. on the other hand were all in; the logic jumps and madcap plot swings and the fact that Meg Ryan (kind of?) plays more than one character didn’t faze them for a second. Their review? Yeah, really weird but also pretty good.