Hello, friends in time, and welcome to a regular feature on Cinema 52 where I putmy weekly viewing of “Back to the Future” on hold and watch another movie featuring time travel for comparison. It may not keep me sane, but it will probably always involve one guy shouting, “This doesn’t make any sense!” And that’s good enough for me.
PEGGY SUE GOT MARRIED(1986)
Easily the most blatant Back to the Future rip-off I’ve reviewed this year, Peggy Sue Got Married stars Kathleen Turner as the titular Got Married, who is now rather ashamed that she also got divorced. When Peggy Sue attends her 25-year high school reunion, she runs into all sort of gents that she thinks would have made better husband material than the goober she just ditched, “Crazy Charlie” Bodell, the Appliance King (Nicolas Cage). Swept up by magic emotions, Peggy Sue is inexplicably whisked back in time to 1960 and, as her teenage self, can go on a statutory humping spree and possibly lock down a more suitable mate. Who will she choose?
I just told you the whole thing.
Good night, everybody! See you back here for Deja Vu!
Okay, that summary didn’t hit everything, but it covers about 90%. This movie’s main problem is that it’s mostly just a collection of scenes. When Peggy Sue goes on a date with a fella, that’s at least technically advancing the Who Should I Marry Instead plot, but a large portion of the movie is just nostalgia. Peggy frequently runs around simply enjoying the pop music, cars, and alcohols of the time period.
Drink every time a scene doesn’t seem related to the scene before it.
Admittedly, the idea of young Peggy Sue’s parents coming home to a completely smashed teenager is funny, but it’s still Kathleen Turner to our eyes, so it doesn’t seem as inappropriate. Get ready to feel queasy when a thoroughly adult woman tries to bone all the teenage boys at her high school, though. Jennifer Garner may have successfully charmed me through the topic of adolescent sex in 13 Going on 30, but Kathleen Turner has no such luck here.
Thanks, unexplained magic!
Even on the time travel front, nothing’s too interesting. The closest we get to a reason for Peggy Sue’s temporal displacement is that she was wearing a dress she owned in high school. She at least attempts to get an answer from the local stereotypical nerd kid, Richard Norvik (Barry Miller), but he doesn’t exactly shed any science on the romantic bullshit. Come, scratch your head along with me at the theory of Richard’s Burrito…
RICHARD: You see, I think that time is like a burrito, in the sense that one part of itself will fold over, and then it will just touch the other part.
PEGGY: What’s inside?
RICHARD: You can fill it with whatever you want. You can fill it with memories, with experiences, trigonometry… anything.
I think Richard just has the munchies.
At one point, it’s theorized that Peggy Sue might be dead, so Richard pushes her in front of a fire engine to test this hypothesis. Fun! I’ll save how Peggy Sue actually solves her time crisis for the spoilery section, but you’re not gonna like it.
Like I’m even going to mention Kathleen Turner first when I’ve spent this much of the article not talking about NICOLAS WICKERFUCKING CAGE.
Take every nerd you’ve ever met. Blend well. Serve over severe respiratory problems.
So here’s what you need to know: Nicolas Cage, for no goddamn reason, decided to talk with a wheezy, dorky voice that’s part Pee-wee Herman, part Jerry Lewis for the entire movie. It almost got him fired from the job, but he lucked out because the director is his uncle and he “convinced” him the voice would be a big hit. (We’ll be getting back to the uncle part.) Still, nobody knew then that one day Nicolas Cage would become a parody of himself in terrible movie after terrible movie, meaning that, in a weird way, he was right about the voice. Sure, he’s distractingly annoying, but it’s Nicolas Cage. We love to see him chewing up the scenery now, so he retroactively became the best thing about this movie. Hell, that’s a more interesting story about the lasting effects of poor decisions than the actual plot!
Kevin J. O’Connor is particularly watchable as Michael Fitzsimmons, a punchably brooding poetic type from Peggy Sue’s English class. He’s dark and cynical, but Peggy Sue doesn’t necessarily go for that, so he switches to romantic poetry and locks it down. Typical phony.
Wait, who’s that rubber-faced son of a bitch behind him?
Why, yes, it’s the star of our last time travel movie, A Christmas Carol:Mr. Jim Carrey. Like Cage, he’s also fun to watch because of the later roles that made him famous. If you only see one scene from Peggy Sue Got Married, I recommend his doo-wop performance with Nicolas Cage.
Please note that it’s not entertaining enough to actually seek the movie out.
When it comes to Kathleen Turner… lots of critics seem to find her charming, but I’m just not a fan of her. Maybe her voice is too ingrained in my mind as Jessica Rabbit.
THE SPECIAL EFFECTS:
Practically zero, though when Peggy Sue first does the time warp, the lights at her high school reunion start flashing a bunch of weird colors. Count it?
Marvel at my screencapping ability as I manage to ensnare two colors!
OTHER (SPOILERY) STUFF:
- Helen Hunt plays Kathleen Turner’s daughter. She is barely in the movie, but since she ended up getting famous, her picture is on the DVD cover between Nicolas Cage and Jim Carrey.
- Big-time spoiler if you give a shit. There’s a bizarre plot point towards the end about Peggy Sue’s grandfather being involved in a time travel cult, but the whole thing is just misdirection. This would have been entertaining if her actual method of returning weren’t, you know… she just returns. She’s upset at the thought of unexisting her kids and decides she’s going to stay with Charlie, which just sends her back. Farrrt.
- Another spoiler if you’re somehow still convinced you should see this. They end it on the classic It Was All a Dream… Or Was It? Peggy Sue wakes up in a hospital and her life is exactly the same. The only indicator that it really happened is that one of the poet kid’s books is dedicated to her, but maybe it always was, oh my God, whatever.
THE “NONE OF THIS MAKES ANY SENSE!” MOMENT:
Peggy Sue spends more time trying to prove that she’s from the future than she does trying to get back to it. Alas, while she has several freak-outs, none of them are in relation to understanding time travel. And because this is filed under Romantic Time Travel, she takes zero precautions about affecting the timeline and straight-up gives Richard a list of everything that will happen from 1960 onward.
“Microwave ovens… pocket calculators… Walk-a-mans… digital watches… and miniature television sets.”
This movie could have been better in the hands of a more skilled director, but unfortunately, it was handed to the guy who made Jack, that shitty Robin Williams movie where he plays a kid. And, as we all know, that director’s name is Francis Ford Coppola. Yes, the man responsible for The Godfather, one of few films allowed to nip at the ankles of Citizen Kane. (See also: Vertigo, Robocop.) Still, as much as I didn’t enjoy Peggy Sue Got Married, its main crime is mediocrity. As I pause to think of the things I review for this site, I’m reminded of my thoughts on 13 Going on 30. An otherwise average film was elevated by Jennifer Garner’s skill at playing a teen and a couple of interesting plot twists. Peggy Sue, to its credit, has a very solid framework for its premise, but it needs something that really stands out in just one department of the filmmaking process to make it memorable.
LATER THIS WEEK:
Deja Vu (2006)