A ’50s coming-of-age ditty filmed through rose-colored baby-boomer bifocals already comes with a lot of baggage—the obligatory doo-wop soundtrack, bemused voiceovers, a miraculous discovery of the opposite sex by Eisenhower-era youth. So it certainly doesn’t help that the plot of Rob Reiner’s homage to first love deals in even more generic clichs. For Juli (Carroll), it’s love at first sight when fellow second-grader Bryce (McAuliffe) moves in across the street. He’s mortified by her unchecked affection, however, especially since her family are the neighborhood eccentrics. By the time he comes to his senses, they’re in junior high school and she’s decided that he lacks character, even if he is easy on the eyes.
Though the dialogue rings too chirpy (“Gee whiz!”) and faintly anachronistic (“Get over it, man!”), the acting is wonderfully subtle, especially John Mahoney’s turn as Bryce’s grimly clear-eyed grandfather. Carroll is the true find here; her character instantly enters the Anne of Green Gables annals as an endearingly unaffected girl undiminished by Ophelia-syndrome nonsense. Such impressive performances are one reason Flipped can’t be entirely dismissed as pure nostalgic treacle—that, and its emphasis on how personal integrity and help-thy-neighbor sometimes got lost in the age’s poodle-skirt conformist parade.—Lisa Rosman
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