Five years ago, Disney recycled a classic Haley Mills film from 1961, and the studio remade “The Parent Trap.” Though many feared the worst, the new version of “Trap,” starring Lindsay Lohan as twins, was charming, often funny and a great tribute to the original.
Last week, Disney released a new version of a less classic comedy, “Freaky Friday.” The original premiered in 1976 and starred future two-time Oscar winner Jodie Foster. The new version stars Jamie Lee Curtis and Lindsay Lohan. This time rather than twins, Lohan plays two characters in the same body at different times. The film follows in the footsteps of the remake of “Trap”; this “Friday” takes the original story and updates it for today’s audience. The difference is that this time the new film is actually better, smarter and more thoughtful than the original.
“Freaky Friday” (2003) tells the story of a mother and daughter who each think that the other one’s life is easy and stress-free. When they are overheard arguing, a curse is placed on them that will force each to live life as the other until the curse is broken.
Of course, many laughs follow as the each tries to adjust to a life and world that she really does not understand. The daughter in the mom’s body is at first excited about the independence of adulthood. The mother in her daughter’s body believes that going to high school will be easy since she has a doctorate. Both make many predictable discoveries along the way.
“Freaky Friday” is not a film with a great many surprises. Almost anyone could predict the plot twists that await these two characters as they fumble through each other’s lives. The film is also as sentimental (and some might say sappy) as any Disney film of yesteryear.
This is not great filmmaking, but the film works for two reasons. First, it is perfectly cast. Curtis and Lohan are great playing both their original characters, and the other’s character after the curse. There are also some good supporting performances by Mark Harmon as Curtis’ fiancé, Harold Gould as Grandpa and Ryan Malgarini as the mischievous younger brother of Lohan’s Annabell.
Secondly, the film works because it offers some compelling ideas for discussion between parents and children. Perhaps it is impossible for either group to fully understand the world of the other. Though all parents want to believe their experience enlightens them to the lives of their children, certainly the challenges and frustrations of high school are altered to one degree or another with each generation.
Most youth also believe that the world of adults is one of endless freedom. “Freaky Friday” will probably not change the minds of youth, but it could inspire them to talk with their parents about their beliefs, and that is a lot for a comedy remake to achieve.
Disney Studios truly may be onto something with this recycling process. The vaults are certainly full of comedies from the ’60s and ’70s that could be remade and possibly improved with a fresh, contemporary version. However, after last year’s revealing look at the life of Bob Crane in the film “Auto Focus,” movie fans can only hope that Crane starrer “Superdad” is not in the studio’s future plans for revival.
As for “Freaky Friday,” every parent with older children or younger teens should seek out this film and choose a good restaurant for post-film dining. There are many conversations that can come from this inspired film about trading places.
Roger Thomas is pastor of First Baptist Church in Albemarle, N.C.
Visit the movie’s official Web site.
MPAA Rating: PG for mild thematic elements and some language
Director: Mark S. Waters
Writers: Heather Hach and Leslie Dixon
Cast: Tess Coleman: Jamie Lee Curtis; Annabell Coleman: Lindsay Lohan; Ryan: Mark Harmon; Grandpa: Harold Gould; Jake: Chad Murray; Harry Coleman: Ryan Malgarini.