After cementing his place in history with two 'Godfather' movies and 'Apocalypse Now,' the 1980s greeted Francis Ford Coppola with box-office bombs and the eventual demise of the director's independent film studio, American Zoetrope. Although his films during the first half of the decade are fascinating studies with much to admire, they failed to capture the attention of audiences, and Coppola's career was looking very dire, at risk of quickly becoming a footnote in discussions about the passionate, ardent style of the "New Hollywood" generation. Marking the first time he didn't have direct input in the scriptwriting, the filmmaker made 'Peggy Sue Got Married' while in desperate need of a financial hit.
Luckily, the venture paid off as the romantic-comedy quickly grew in stature and became a favorite of the mid-80s, putting Coppola back on the map and renewing his career for a short while longer. Written by real-life couple Jerry Leichtling and Arlene Sarner, the story of a 40-something housewife in the middle of a highly stressful divorce traveling back to her senior year in high school was apparently what moviegoers were wanting at the time. Part of its success, of course, comes from Kathleen Turner's strong, heartfelt performance as a good-hearted woman bogged down by the hectic and taxing demands of adult life. She instantly wins our sympathies with her bright, humble smile and joyful blue eyes that quickly turn to gloomy and disenchanted at precise, perfect moments.
At its core, the story is in the vein of "body-swap" comedies as Turner's Peggy Sue feels she is given a second chance to change the course of her life. Her senior year of high school is the period when she married Charlie (Nicolas Cage) soon after graduation because of an unexpected pregnancy. Charlie's dreams of becoming a famous doo-wop group — one talented member in particular is a very young Jim Carrey — also came to an end that year, and Peggy has spent much of her marriage thinking he blamed her for it. Not only is her journey spent reconnecting with her old friends, Maddy (Joan Allen) and Carol (Catherine Hicks), the down-to-earth Peggy enjoys her stay with immediate family and visits her beloved grandparents while learning valuable lessons along the way.
As clichéd and mawkish as that may sound, Peggy Sue's blast to the past and what she takes away from it works to the film's benefit rather than its detriment. Although following a simple and admittedly generic formula with an easily predictable conclusion, what sets this comedy apart from others is how Turner's Peggy grows from the experience. At her 25-year high school reunion, she reminisces on her teenage years with a "woulda-coulda-shoulda" mentality while fondly thinking on one boy, the school's beatnik rebel Michael Fitzsimmons (Kevin J. O'Connor). But once back in 1960, she can't help but see the world from a mature, experienced perspective, realizing life is not about regrets and what you could have done differently. The plot puts a new spin to that old adage of "If I knew then what I know now, and it does it with a charm.
And moviegoers of 1986 agreed, giving Francis Ford Coppola a much-needed box-office hit at the time. Despite basically being a paycheck for the deservedly-admired filmmaker, 'Peggy Sue Got Married' is a comedy that's worthy of being remembered as one of Coppola's finer efforts. Granted, his approach to the material is somewhat reserved and workmanlike compared to his other, more audacious films, but would we want it any other way for a romantic-comedy? I would argue Coppola did right in taking a more practical, straightforward stance, allowing for the narrative to unfold and surprise audiences on its own terms rather than his bold, experimental guidance. Peggy Sue wins our hearts and entertains with her delightful and cheery personality, not because of who she's attached to at the hips, which in the end is precisely the point.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
Image Entertainment brings 'Peggy Sue Got Married' to Blu-ray on a Region A locked, BD25 disc, housed inside a blue, eco-elite keepcase. At startup, the disc goes straight to a main menu screen with full-motion clips and music playing in the background.
Peggy Sue not only got married, but also redeemed a few past sins with this somewhat satisfying 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 transfer. Previous home video editions of the movie, including the laserdisc, were released in the incorrect 1.33:1 frame — the good ole pan-and-scan format. On Blu-ray, Image Entertainment corrects such regretful, juvenile behavior by giving Peggy a chance to finally shine in the film's original 1.85:1 aspect ratio, better preserving the Academy-nominated cinematography of Jordan Cronenweth. Unfortunately, this is about the only significant positive worth celebrating because frankly, the prom queen has not aged well.
She might have been a popular hottie back in the day, but she just can't compete today with those in her same category. Sorry, but Peggy's not taking the crown home tonight. Instead, she'll have to be content with definition and clarity that is overall average. One or two moments reveal excellent detailing, especially during bright daylight exteriors, but a majority of the picture is soft with several poorly-resolved sequences. Contrast is pretty flat as well, but also fluctuates from scene to scene. Highlights tend to bloom and clip, particularly in many of the interior shots, ruining finer details, creating a tad of noise and some mild posterization. Black levels can look rich and plentiful, but there's also quite a bit of crush in the darker portions of the image and small background details are often engulfed by the shadows. Colors are cleanly-rendered and appear natural, but they don't generally pop or impressive.
Overall, the high-def presentation is a definite step up over previous home video editions, but it's not a quarter of a century leap difference.
The high-rez audio, on the other hand, is a clear winner and a massive improvement. Despite altering the original mono design to this 5.1 upmix, the DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack is quite satisfying, maintaining much of the action and music within the front soundstage. Imaging feels broad and welcoming with excellent fidelity and clean, well-balanced channel separation. Dialogue is nicely prioritized in the center with great clarity in Nicolas Cage's high-pitched inflections and Kathleen Turner's recognizable deep feminine voice. Dynamics and acoustics are accurate and detailed, providing the music and some of the action with good differentiation. Low bass is adequate and appropriate for a romantic comedy. A few discrete effects are employed to expand the soundfield, and the results are rather impressive with better than expected directionality, making this a very good lossless mix.
Directed by Francis Ford Coppola at a time when he desperately needed a box-office hit, 'Peggy Sue Got Married' is a winning and delightfully entertaining romantic-comedy worth considering as one of Coppola's nicer efforts. Starring Kathleen Turner (in a charmingly wonderful performance) and Nicolas Cage, the "body-swap" movie about living life full of regrets features a strong cast of actors that pile on the laughs along with the tears. This Blu-ray edition of the surprise hit is a definite step up from previous home video editions, but the picture quality fails to make much of an impression. While the audio presentation is the clear winner of the overall package, the lack of bonus material brings the release down a notch. Still, fans will likely reconnect with this blast from the past.