Dir: Mark Waters. US. 2003. 97mins.
An original remake sounds like an oxymoron, but the new Freaky Friday, Disney's reworking of its own 1976 film, is smart, energetic and loads of fun. Indeed, it is almost as good as The Parent Trap, a 1998 Disney re-make that, not so coincidentally, starred the same appealing young actress, Lindsay Lohan. The studio can expect very good business for this tween- and teen-friendly comedy about a mother and daughter who switch bodies for a day when it opens in the US on Friday (Aug 8). While girls are the obvious audience, mums and other family members can enjoy the on-screen shenanigans - and the important life lessons they impart. Overseas box office is unlikely to match domestic, but adolescent girls interested in American teen mores should boost foreign grosses.
"You're ruining my life!" wails 15-year old Anna (Lohan) to her mother. While most kids probably could not get away with such a comment, psychiatrist Dr Tess Coleman (Curtis) takes her daughter's lament pretty much in stride. She and her daughter seem permanently at loggerheads. A perpetually upbeat, if distracted, go-getter, Tess just does not get Anna's surly, uncooperative attitude; her repeated trips to after-school detention; her attraction to grungy clothes, heavy black eyeliner and black nail polish; or her passion for the electric guitar and the garage band she has formed.
For her part, Anna thinks her widowed mother's life is easy, despite raising two kids alone, worrying about paying the bills and a full-time career. Anna also does not approve of her mum's upcoming marriage to nice-guy fiance Ryan (Harmon) and wants to skip tomorrow night's rehearsal dinner to audition with her band at the House of Blues.
That evening mother and daughter are arguing loudly at a Chinese restaurant when they are handed identical fortune cookies - and next morning mysteriously awaken in each other's bodies. Tess, who quickly ascertains what has transpired, has to contend with the trials and tribulations of high school while Anna, trapped in her mother's dowdy dresses, is forced to see what her mum has to go through every day. Even as a newfound respect develops between them, they still have to figure out a way to switch back before Tess and Ryan's wedding.
The plot device that brings on the body switch - the fortune cookie spell - is lame. The 1976 film handled it more simply and convincingly: Anna and her mum (played by Jodie Foster and Barbara Harris respectively) awoke in each other's bodies on Friday the 13th. The new film, however, has a much more imaginative and fun-filled plot, partially because the role of women in society has changed so dramatically since the mid-1970s, allowing for fresher and funnier situations.
The opportunities for physical comedy, as each character inhabits the other's body, are well met by both actresses. Lohan, in particular, is terrific as Anna and as Tess in Anna's body. The scenes when Curtis has to play Anna do not seem as believable - partially because they are not as well-reasoned. Granted, Anna is full of self-righteous adolescent disrespect for her mother, but it seems she would make slightly more effort in pretending to be her mother, if only because that is the only remedy for their fortune cookie dilemma.
Director Waters uses camera tricks judiciously, as when he introduces Tess in a speeded-up sequence that says all the audience need to know about her boundless energy. Similarly, when Anna spies the boy she secretly likes, everything slips into slow motion. Like the film itself, it is cute without going overboard.
Prod co: Walt Disney Pictures, GUNNFilms
US dist: Buena Vista Pictures
Intl dist: Buena Vista International
Exec prod: Mario Iscovich
Prod: Andrew Gunn
Scr: Heather Hach, Leslie Dixon, based on the book by Mary Rodgers
Cinematography: Oliver Wood
Prod des: Cary White
Ed: Bruce Green
Music: Rolfe Kent
Main cast: Jamie Lee Curtis, Lindsay Lohan, Mark Harmon, Harold Gould, Chad Michael Murray