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Toon Talk: Freaky Friday
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by Kirby Holt (archives)
August 11, 2003
Kirby reviews Disney's latest live-action film Freaky Friday.

Toon Talk
Disney Film & Video Reviews by Kirby C. Holt

(c) Disney

Freaky Friday
Mother/Daughter Day

When it was first announced that Disney would return yet again to their library to remake another of its family classics with an updated Freaky Friday, my expectations were hedged; after all, their track record with such endeavors can be hit (The Parent Trap) or, as is more often the case, a dreadful miss (101 Dalmatians, Flubber, That Darn Cat!).

Factor in that the original Freaky Friday (released in 1976 and starring Barbara Harris and a young Jodie Foster) has already been remade once (albeit for television, in 1995, starring Shelley Long and Gaby Hoffman), plus the idea of yet another ‘body-switch’ comedy … a sub-genre already done to death in the mid-80s with such stinkers as Dream a Little Dream, 18 Again! and Like Father, Like Son … left me wondering: was a new Freaky Friday even necessary?

And the answer is, surprisingly, refreshingly … a most definite yes. Starring Jamie Lee Curtis and Lindsay Lohan (the young Disney star who, all grown-up from her Parent Trap days, will leave you saying “Hilary who??), this modern take on the familiar tale (mom and daughter don’t see eye-to-eye until, with a little mystical help, they mysteriously switch bodies and are forced to live each other’s lives for a day) is smart and lean, a contemporary re-do that dumps the retro corn of the first Friday, emerging as that rare breed indeed: a remake that surpasses the original.

(c) Disney

In the new script by Heather Hach and Leslie Dixon (adapted from the original novel by Mary Rodgers), dad is gone and mom Tess Coleman (Curtis) is an overextended psychologist on the cusp of marrying her nice guy fiancé Ryan (Mark Harmon). The pending nuptials don’t sit too well with 15-year old daughter Annabelle (Lohan), now a rocker-chick with Kelly Clarkson hair instead of a tomboy in a tattered baseball cap. Their all-too-real mother/daughter conflicts culminate at a Chinese restaurant, where a pair of magical fortune cookies (nice touch … you always knew there was something up with those) puts the switch in motion.

Thankfully, not too much thought is put into the mumbo-jumbo that is the catalyst for the plot, and, after a summer filled with overly-digitalized special effects, the transformations are handled with a simple yet effective ‘whoosh’ of the camera. Instead, director Mark Waters (The House of Yes) wisely sits back and lets his two fine leads loose.

Whereas Lohan has the harder task (which she effortlessly handles) of playing a clueless adult lost amidst modern teen culture, it is Curtis who really shines as a slightly selfish slacker forced to grow up a little while inhabiting her parent’s body (“I look like the Crypt Keeper!? she wails upon the discovery). While she is obviously having a ball playing young again (harkening back to her own teen years in such films as Halloween), Curtis winningly captures the gangly awkwardness (and even, dare I say it, sexual awakening) every high school girl goes through.

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