**** (out of 5)
August 6, 2003
Jamie Lee Curtis as TESS COLEMAN
Lindsay Lohan as ANNABELL COLEMAN
Mark Harmon as RYAN
Harold Gould as GRANDPA
Chad Michael Murray as JAKE
Stephen Tobolowsky as MR. BATES
Directed by: Mark S. Waters
BY KEVIN CARR
It’s been a long time since I’ve seen the original “Freaky Friday,” but to my recollection, this is quite a different film. This one is updated with cool gadgets like cell phones and palm pilots, and it doesn’t end with Jamie Lee Curtis on water skis. But the general premise is the same.
“Freaky Friday” begins with the feel of a Lizzie McGuire episode – well, if Lizzie McGuire was more into grunge than pop… and if Lizzie didn’t have such a great relationship with her mother… and if her father was dead… but aside from that, it has the same frenetic, bubble gum feel. Annabell (Lindsay Lohan) is a fifteen year old girl struggling to be herself in the high school sea. She’s got the annoying little brother, a gaggle of friends to be the devils and angels on her shoulders and a hopeful career as a lead guitarist in a garage band.
Annabell’s mother Tess (Jamie Lee Curtis) is a psychiatrist who is in the middle of planning her second wedding and doesn’t really have the time or the energy to deal with all the BS her daughter throws her way. After a day of bickering and yelling at each other, Annabell and Tess are put under an ancient Chinese curse that causes them to switch bodies until they can respect each other’s point of view.
Up until this point, the film just marks time, dishing out the familiar story and somewhat hackneyed background to the characters. After this point, though, the film comes alive, bouncing back and forth between Tess (in Annabell’s body) and Annabell (in Tess’s body). But the real gem in this is the chemistry between Curtis and Lohan – even when they’re not in the same scene.
Rumor has it that Annette Bening was originally slated to play Tess and Jamie Lee Curtis stepped in after Bening dropped out. Quite frankly, that’s one of the best things that could have happened to this film. Curtis is hilarious as Tess and Annabell. If you’ve seen the trailer with her classic line “I’m old! I’m like the Crypt Keeper!” you have a taste of how spot-on her teenager performance is. While a little overplayed at times, Curtis has an excellent grasp of her characters.
A lot of this can be attributed to her relationship with her real life daughter. For example, on a late night talk show, Curtis once explained that she often “negotiates” with her daughter to do chores by threatening to break out in song in public. In a world where some parents are unable to relate to their kids, it’s refreshing to see that at least one woman knows how powerful the threat of public embarrassment can be to a teenage girl. It’s far more powerful than any form of punishment at home.
Lindsay Lohan, whom many will remember as Hallie Parker and Annie James from the 1998 remake of “The Parent Trap,” continues her Disney career after going through puberty on television. She’s grown up a bit but still shows a great amount of promise as an actor. As much as Curtis’s portrayal of a teenager is over the top, Lohan’s performance as a stuffy adult in a teenager’s body is spot on and hilarious in it’s own subtle way. I wonder who had more fun acting in this film.
If anything, “Freaky Friday” serves as a nice chance to see some of the forgotten actors of the 1980s. Mark Harmon plays Ryan, Tess’s graying fiancé instead of a young, uppity summer school teacher. Marc McClure, whom you might remember as Jimmy Olsen from the Superman films or Marty McFly’s brother in “Back to the Future,” reprises his role of Boris from the original 1976 “Freaky Friday.”
Director Mark S. Waters gives us a slightly more uplifting outlook than his breakthrough film “The House of Yes.” However, he still manages to sneak a bit of edge under the Disney banner. And while Disney just couldn’t resist weaving in a plot about a young teenage rocker (no doubt hoping to spawn another Britney Spears or Hilary Duff), it is refreshing to see the brand of music in a slightly different vein.
Curtis and Lohan have remarkable chemistry, and it is nice to see a film where the supporting cast doesn’t outshine the leads. Of course, the supporting cast holds its own with Harold Gould as the grandfather at odds with his grandson and Stephen Tobolowsky as the cantankerous Mr. Bates, Annabell’s English teacher who has it in for her.
The only weak link in the cast chain is Chad Michael Murray as Jake, the older bad boy Annabell has the hots for. His performance is only so-so, and that’s probably because his character is really kind of lame. On the ship of fools, Jake appears to be the only sane one, and alas for Murray, that’s not very much fun.
Of course, “Freaky Friday” doesn’t offer any huge revelations about life, the universe and everything, but it’s not meant to. It’s meant to be a fun kid’s movie, and it’s a must see for mothers and daughters – just as “What a Girl Wants” was a great film for dads to see with their teenage girls.