Freaky Friday

The original “Freaky Friday” sits on a shelf among other movies I consider comfort food. “The Parent Trap,” “The Three Lives of Thomasina,” “Darby O’Gill and the Little People.” Walt Disney movies I grew up with and turn to when the world becomes mean and cruel.

To understand my obsession with “Freaky Friday” one would have to go back to 1977 and the Mann’s Esplanade Theater, where my best friend Donna Angell and I saw the Barbra Harris-Jodie Foster original seven times in one week. Both out of high school, we were the perfect age to see beyond the “me” movement of our youth, the perfect age to appreciate jokes on both sides of the fence.

It’s difficult pinpoint what compelled us to come back day after day, laughing just as loud and long as the first time. The word “parsley” always brings a smile to my face. “Freaky Friday” is part of a 1970s revival, proof that with enough time and distance, even a much maligned decade can overcome bad memories.

When the remake of “The Parent Trap” was announced, chills of trepidation ran up and down my spine. All for naught, as “The Parent Trap,” starring Lindsay Lohan as twins separated at birth and then reunited at summer camp, not only respected the original film, but improved on its basic instincts.

As Walt Disney’s go-to girl, Lohan returns in “Freaky Friday,” a delightfully goofy and sweet role-reversal comedy. When it was released in 1977, “Freaky Friday” seemed original and fresh. Mother and daughter switch bodies and learn important life lessons along the way. The new “Freaky Friday” has the disadvantage of arriving like an asterisk on a bad joke, another “role reversal” comedy, including “Like Father, Like Son,” “Vice Versa,” and thankfully “Big.”

Lucky for us, “Freaky Friday” isn’t another in a long line of dunderhead comedies, but the beginning of something new, a smart, sassy, hilarious family film that should appeal to a wide cross section of audiences. Writers Heather Hach and Leslie Dixon don’t just rehash the same plot, they reinvent it. Too much tinkering and you end up with “That Darn Cat” with Christina Ricci. Fine tune it, and you not only get a film that can stand on its own, but sit on the same mantle as the original without embarrassment.

Hach and Dixon use the original script as a road map, making lane changes and u-turns in order to bring the story of Tess Coleman (Jamie Lee Curtis), her rebellious daughter Anna (Lohan), and their unexpected and unwelcome role reversal full circle. Tess is now a single mom, a frazzled psychologist days away from getting married. Anna plays in a rock band, every parent’s dream, and has a big audition the same night as the wedding rehearsal. Then there’s poor younger brother Harry, who feels like the ball boy at a heated tennis match.

It’s doubtful that Tess and Anna will be able to see eye to eye come wedding day, but thanks to duplicate fortune cookies that cast a curse on them, mother and daughter get an even better peek inside each other’s lives. It’s a trifle bit of silliness, but one that works because Curtis and Lohan are extremely endearing and make us believe it. Once the big switch is on, Curtis and Lohan don’t just mimic each other, but actually inherit each other’s characteristics and mannerisms.

With her dual role in “The Parent Trap,” Lohan demonstrated she is capable of making the material very much her own. It’s always fun to watch Curtis let loose (“True Lies,” “Trading Places”), and she has a blast as the enfant terrible with a Gold Card and a hot bod.

That’s what I loved about the first film, watching Anne grow up and take on some responsibility, while watching the always perfect Tess dissolve into a bowl of Jell-O. The argument that kids and/or parents have it easier is always ripe for some good, old fashioned laughs, and “Freaky Friday” scares up more than its share.


Lots of switches in remake of “Freaky Friday”


Jamie Lee Curtis, Lindsay Lohan, Chad Murray, Mark Harmon, Ryan Malgarini, Harold Gould. Directed by Mark S. Waters. Rated PG. 93 Minutes.


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