The Parent Trap

I remember it like it was yesterday. 1961. The old Fox Santa Paula Theater. I was only five then, but I clearly remember how much I liked Walt Disney Pictures “The Parent Trap.” I was an instant Haley Mills groupie. I didn’t dare miss any of her following films, like “That Darn Cat,” “In Search of the Castaways,” and “Summer Magic.” Fond memories of childhood.


Which is why I approached the remake of “The Parent Trap” with some trepidation. I mean, look at what they did with the remake of “That Darn Cat.” I felt sorry for Christina Ricci, who not only had to overcome comparisons to Mills, but a bad script. A numbing experience.

Glad to report that “The Parent Trap” is alive and well, thanks to the marvelous writing-directing team of Nancy Meyers and Charles Shyer, and an excellent cast. I loved this movie, a wonderful mix of nostalgia and nineties sensibility. Meyers and Shyer wisely stick to the original formula by screenwriter David Swift (based on a German comedy). Enough so that they have given Swift a co-writer credit. A lot of Swift’s dialogue remains intact, while Meyers and Shyer have given the story some new twists.

Young Lindsay Lohan is outstanding as twins Hallie Parker and Annie James, separated as infants when their parents divorced. Hallie ended up in Napa, California with her father Nick (Dennis Quaid). Annie stayed with her mother Elizabeth in London (Natasha Richardson). Eleven years pass, and as fate would have it, both girls end up going to the same Maine summer camp.

It takes a while before Hallie and Annie even meet, and when they do, they can’t stand each other. Hallie is more of a tomboy, while Annie is refined and well mannered. It takes an outrageous prank (right out of the first film) to land the girls in the isolation cabin, where they’re forced to deal with each other.

A blustery summer storm brings the two girls together, and after exchanging life histories, realize that they’re not only related, but twin sisters. Before you can double-cross, the girls decide to switch places so Annie can meet her father and Hallie her mother. That means a crash course in all things family, and a funny sequence involving hair and ears. The plan works, and before long, Annie is in Napa with the father she never knew.

In London, Hallie discovers the joys of having a mother for the first time, not to mention a wonderful grandfather (Ronnie Stevens) and a dutiful butler (Simon Kunz). Annie and Hallie’s plan to reveal the charade so their parents will have to switch them and meet again goes into overdrive when Annie reveals that Nick plans to get remarried.

Her name is Meredith (the delicious Elaine Hendrix), a blonde barracuda and gold digger. The girls trick Elizabeth into heading off to California, where they hope her presence will knock some sense into Nick. How Annie and Hallie deal with Meredith and bring their parents back together makes for very engaging entertainment. Very heart-felt, funny stuff.

There’s a lot of heart in this remake of “The Parent Trap.” There’s also a lot of laughs, real, honest laughs. I felt so overwhelmed that the film- makers got it right that tears filled my eyes. I loved the alterations made by Meyers and Shyer. Now Nick owns a vineyard in Napa, and collects rare wines, including the vintage that he and Elizabeth shared when they married aboard a Trans-Atlantic cruise on the Queen Elizabeth 2. Elizabeth is an internationally famous wedding dress designer who has everything in life but a man.

As in the first film, Nick still has a housekeeper, this one named Chessy (the wonderful Lisa Ann Walter). This outing she’s unattached, leaving room for some romance with Elizabeth’s butler. That’s an addition that makes the film a fuller experience.

Lindsay Lohan is a real find. She’s outstanding in two difficult roles, and provides each of the twins with distinct character traits. Her performance really touched me. Thanks to seamless visual effects and editing, you honestly believe that both Annie and Hallie occupy the same frame.

Dennis Quaid and Natasha Richardson are excellent in roles originated by Brian Keith and Maureen O’Hara.. All Quaid has to do is flash that boyish smile and you can see why someone like Elizabeth just buckles at the knees. I’ve always liked Quaid, but I like him best when he plays guys like Nick Parker.

Richardson radiates in “The Parent Trap.” Her Elizabeth comes across as the sort of woman any eleven year old girl would adore as a mother. Like their remake of “Father of the Bride,” Meyer and Shyer perfectly balance the laughs with a strong story filled with lots of heart. I honestly cared out these characters.

As a major fan of the first film, I appreciated the little in-jokes sprinkled throughout the film. Joanne Barnes, who played the original barracuda Vicki in the first film, has a cameo as Meredith’s mother. While waiting for an elevator, Hallie whips off a couple lines of “Let’s Get Together” from the original. Then there’s the constant references to Cruella De Vil. Richardson co-starred in the live action remake of “101 Dalmatians.”

With superior production values and a musical score peppered with classic rock songs, “The Parent Trap” looks and sounds great. I hope this film makes a ton of money. It deserves to.

A VERY NOSTALGIC “TRAP”

THE PARENT TRAP

Dennis Quaid, Natasha Richardson, Lindsay Lohan, Lisa Ann Walter, Simon Kunz, Elaine Hendrix in a film directed by Nancy Meyers. Rated PG. 127 Min.

LARSEN RATING: $7



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