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'Peggy Sue Got Married' (PG-13)

By Rita Kempley
Washington Post Staff Writer
October 10, 1986

As the over-40 bunch heads over the hill, Francis Ford Coppola cashes in with a sentimental journey that asks, as Barbra Streisand once did: If we had to do it all again, would we? Could we? For that matter, didn't we just last summer?

Kathleen Turner nevertheless goes back to the future as a mid-life time-tripper, revisiting the days of sweater sets and shoo-bop, shoo-bop in "Peggy Sue Got Married." It's a wistful fantasy, a bright reminiscence, a Stroll down memory lane that's as glowingly conceived as it is slightly flawed.

It begins at a 1960 class reunion, where the nerds have all become successes and the high school heroes happy nobodies. Turner, all plumped up for the part, is dewey-eyed but never dippy as the teen-queen who married her high school sweetheart Charlie, an unhappy appliance salesman whose affairs are destroying their marriage.

The reunion brings back better, sweeter memories. And in her silver lame prom gown and with a soft focus lens, the 44-year-old matron looks like a girl again. Oh, Peggy Sue, gush her old chums, you look just the same as you did when you were 18. (If she didn't, of course, the story would end right there.)

Peggy Sue is not whisked away in a DeLorean, or a pumpkin or a tornado. She collapses as she is crowned reunion queen. When she wakes, she's in a Land of Oz, not to mention Harriet: a white-picket-fence neighborhood where Charlie is still a hopeful high-schooler and her lifelong friends are giggly slumber-party girls. "I forgot you were ever this young," she says to her mother, who advises her, "This is the best time of your whole life. Be beautiful. Be perky."

And there's the young-again Peggy Sue, newly appreciative, as she belts out, "My country 'tis of thee . . ." Her half-hearted classmates worry that she's lost her mind. It is a powerful little comic moment, packed with pathos and rediscovery. And that's what the movie does best -- it puts memories into time capsules. If we open wide and swallow, we'll feel younger for 24 hours. (We're not getting older, just more nostalgic.)

The script is an airy confection by screenwriters Jerry Leichtling and Arlene Sarner, who cross chronologies cleverly in the dialogue. Peggy Sue, angered by Charlie's future philandering, takes up with the class beatnik. The hurting hero confronts her, "When I think of you going out with other guys, I feel . . ." Words escape him. "Rejected, miserable," she suggests. "Yeah," he says. "Good," she says.

What mars the movie, aside from the po/key opening and overused theme, is an icky performance by Nicholas Cage as Charlie. He calls it surreal, "a type of cartoon acting." Well, he does kind of remind you of Jughead. And what is with his malted-milk falsetto that turns, as Charlie ages, into a squeaky alto, like Mickey Mouse with swollen glands? Cage, son of August Coppola, has also appeared in Coppola's "The Cotton Club" and "Rumble Fish." Perhaps nepotism, like time, is relative.

Copyright The Washington Post

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