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Director Robert Zemeckis displays such dazzling cinematic know-how that it's genuinely depressing when this 1984 film falls off into the usual self-ridicule. It sometimes seems that the main task of filmmakers in the 80s was to placate the smart-asses in the audience; Zemeckis wins them over through a plot (romance novelist stumbles into an adventure beyond her wildest dreams) that undercuts the essential premises of the genre he has chosen to work in. The actors have been encouraged to mug like crazy, though Kathleen Turner clings tenaciously to the shreds of her character. It's nice to see someone with the courage to be serious. With Michael Douglas, Danny DeVito, and Zack Norman; photographed in well-used Panavision by John Carpenter's man, Dean Cundey.

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