Picks and Pans Review: Sleepless in Seattle

updated 06/28/1993 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 06/28/1993 AT 01:00 AM EDT

Tom Hanks, Meg Ryan, Bill Pullman, Rosie O'Donitell

Sleepless in Seattle, meet Not Amused in New York. Hanks is a Chicago architect with a screen-cute 8-year-old (Ross Malinger) and a heart broken by the recent death of his wife. Wanting a fresh start, he moves with his son and his insomnia to the great Northwest. Meanwhile, Ryan, a reporter for The Baltimore Sun, has just become engaged to the loving, allergy-prone Pullman. Driving and dial-flipping on Christmas Eve, she tunes into a psychologist's national call-in show and hears Malinger chronicle the misery of his bereaved dad. When the reluctant Hanks is persuaded to join the conversation and talk about his wife, Ryan becomes bewitched. So do hundreds of other women, who start writing to Hanks offering consolation and matrimony. But no one goes as far as Ryan, who in addition to sending fan mail does a computer search on Hanks, hires a photographer to snap covert pictures of him frolicking with his son, and concocts an assignment, with the help of her editor (O'Donnell), that takes her to Seattle. Ultimately, though, she can't summon the courage to approach him. For his part, Hanks is beginning to date again, but Malinger, displeased with his father's choice-s—and entranced In Ryan's letter—-decides to play Cupid.

Sleepless is full of the effortful, let's-be-topical-or-die banter that's the hallmark of a Nora Ephron movie. There are quips about tiramisu, dating in the '90s ("The good news is, you gel to split the check"), women's absorption with the firmness of men's posteriors, men's hysteria about Fatal Attraction and tired observations about the differences in the male and female psyche. But the movie's problems go deeper-than the dialogue: its whole premise is flawed. Hanks is never made to seem sufficiently winning, nor Pullman sufficiently outclassed (infact, he's a sweetheart). to make Ryan's obsession comprehensible. Consequently, the cynically manipulative Sleepless must rely on a score of standards such as "In the Wee Small Hours of the Morning" and "Stardust" and frequent references to the "50s weeper An Affair to Remember to create a sense of romance that would be otherwise lacking—and is still pretty spurious. Hanks's sardonic teddy bear charm is at full throttle, while Ryan keeps twitching her head from side to side as though trying to dislodge water from her ear. (PG)"

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