"The Parent Trap - Double Feature"
DVD Review
by Kevin Carr

    The Parent Trap
    MOVIE: *** (out of 5 stars)
    Rated G

    Haley Mills as SHARON MCKENDRICK
    Haley Mills as SUSAN EVERS
    Maureen O’Hara as MAGGIE MCKENDRICK
    Brian Keith as MITCH EVERS
    Charlie Ruggles as CHARLES MCKENDRICK
    Una Merkel as VERBENA
    Leo G. Carroll as REV. DR. MOSBY
    Joanna Barnes as VICKY ROBINSON

    Directed by: David Swift

    The Parent Trap II
    MOVIE: * (out of 5 stars)
    Not Rated

    Haley Mills as SHARON FERRIS
    Haley Mills as SUSAN COREY
    Tom Skerritt as BILL GRAND
    Carrie Kei Heim as NIKKI FERRIS
    Bridgette Andersen as MARY GRAND
    Alex Harvey as BRIAN COREY
    Gloria Cromwell as FLORENCE

    Directed by: Ronald F. Maxwell

    DVD EXPERIENCE: ***1/2 (out of 5 stars)
    Studio: Disney

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I’ve never seen many of the Disney classic family films. I’ve seen some, mind you, like “Treasure Island” and “Johnny Tremain.” However, there’s a whole library of films that I’ve missed. All of the ones starring Haley Mills, in fact. No “That Darn Cat.” No “Pollyanna.” And no “The Parent Trap.”

Maybe it was a lack of enthusiasm for “The Wonderful World of Disney” television show that aired each week when I was a kid. Maybe it was because I was just a bit too old for them when home video really came on strong in the 1980s. Whatever the reason, I had never seen “The Parent Trap” before.

When watching a classic film like this, you have to put yourself back in the time it was made. There is plenty in “The Parent Trap” to cause you to chuckle. Things you’d never see in a slightly more realistic modern cinema. However, taking into account this movie is more than forty years old, it still holds up as a family film.

It’s a story of two twins, separated at infancy, who discover each other at a summer camp. They decide to switch places and trap their parents into falling in love with each other again. However, things get complicated when their father announces he’s getting engaged to a gold-digging trollop.

“The Parent Trap” isn’t just a sweet little family film. It’s also a landmark production in terms of special effects. While digital effects and motion-control cameras are commonplace today in movies, filmmakers were limited to rear projection and split screens to make the special effects of the early 1960s.

Even today, the split screen processing used to duplicate Haley Mills in “The Parent Trap” is pretty impressive, if you know the limitations of the day. In some ways, it reminds me of the forced-perspective wizardry that was used to make “Darby O’Gill and the Little People” so stunning back then.

However, like most successful movies, it’s too tempting to make a sequel. It took Disney 25 years to do this, but they eventually banged out “The Parent Trap II,” a TV movie from 1986. Starring a much older (and much rougher) Haley Mills in dual roles, this movie focuses on one sister, whose daughter tries to get her to fall in love with a friend’s father. They enlist the other twin’s help to pose as her sister.

This sequel to “The Parent Trap” is simply awful in every sense of the word. The acting’s terrible, the plot’s stale and everything seems forced. I’ve seen better execution in low-budget independent films. Supposedly this wretched version spawned two additional sequels. If this is the bar that was set for quality, I dread seeing these others.

The DVD set for “The Parent Trap” and “The Parent Trap II” includes both films on one disc and a second disc with two hours of bonus material. Included are several behind-the-scenes and retrospective documentaries. The most interesting one is an spotlight on Haley Mills’ photo double from the original film, who happens to be much easier on the eyes than the goblin-esque Haley Mills ever was.

There are other features, including music selections, original trailers, a Disney scrapbook for 1961 and a somewhat out-of-place interview between “The Parent Trap” director David Swift and classic Disney animator Ward Kimbal.

Aside from much of the documentary work being people gushing over Haley Mills as an actress (whom I’ve never found remotely attractive as a child or as an adult), it’s a nice retrospective - at least if you’re a big fan of the original film.

Specifications: Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound. Widescreen (1.85:1), enhanced for 16x9 televisions. French and Spanish subtitles; English language subtitles for the hearing impaired.

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