Mom and Daughter Swap Bods One "Freaky Friday"
By Kam Williams
I doubt if many people can recall Vice Versa (1988), a light comedy in which a businessman and his son find themselves inside each other's bodies after handling a mysterious ornamental Oriental object. That all-but-forgotten film is perhaps best remembered for featuring child star Fred Savage (of TV's The Wonder Years) in the role which kickstarted his career.
Almost no one would know that the original Vice Versa was a silent, black and white flick from way back in 1916. And few, I'm sure, are aware of the 1948 version of the same name directed by Peter Ustinov. There, a businessman ends up as his own son (and vice-versa, of course) after rubbing a magic stone from India while wishing to be young again.
So, the parent-child body-swap has long been a popular plot device that gets revived whenever idea-bereft Hollywood senses audiences are ripe for a re-introduction to this improbable, if reliably engaging, genre of comedy. I suppose there's something universal about such a switch that captures the imagination of young and old alike, with each generation relishing the idea of the other's literally having to walk a mile in its mocassins. Or, as in the case of Freaky Friday, the female equivalent of Vice Versa, having to walk in its high heels, hairdos and other fashion statements.
Freaky Friday is a Walt Disney franchise based on the Mary Rodgers children's novel published in 1972. Rodgers also wrote Summer Switch, a suspiciously similar-sounding story about a father and son who miraculously trade incarnations, and end up spending the summer in each other's camp and office, respectively. That tale was made into a movie by Nickelodeon in 1983.
Disney first adapted Freaky Friday to the big screen in 1976 with the then thirteen year-old Jodie Foster aboard as Annabel Andrews, the annoying teenager who, one weird Friday the 13th, learns a big lesson in life from her Mom's point-of-view. Although Jodie's performance failed to generate much in the way of critical acclaim, she did receive the first of her many Oscar nominations a few months later for her brilliant work in Taxi Driver.
In 1995, a made-for-TV version of Freaky Friday didn't register much more than a blip in the ratings, enabling Disney now to redo the movie anew only eight years later. This latest release is actually the best of the bunch, being extraordinarily funny and fresh, despite the well-worn thematic elements. Perhaps, it succeeds on account of its leads, Jamie Lee Curtis and Lindsay Lohan, both of whom throw themselves into their roles with an absolutely admirable gusto.
As the movie opens, we see that Dr. Tess Coleman (Curtis) has her hands full with her spoiled, 15 year-old daughter, Anna (Lohan). They hate each other's tastes in clothes, coiffures, culture and most importantly, men. The latter is a critical problem, with Tess's impending marriage to Ryan (Mark Harmon) looming just a couple of days away. It doesn't help matters that Anna's bratty little brother, Harry (Ryan Malgarini), is also a distracting monkey wrench in the mix, acting out with annoying antics like sticking straws up his nostrils and exclaiming, "Look! I'm a walrus!"
The tension escalates after Anna messes up at school where she gets sent to detention twice and receives an F in English. Mom reacts by pulling the plug on her daughter's deafening garage band and by removing the door to her bedroom entirely. "You're ruining my life!" Anna shrieks, but to no avail.
Then, one Thursday night, while the two are arguing in a Chinese restaurant, a meddling waitress serves them identical fortune cookies, whose special message reads, "A journey soon begins, the prize reflected in another's eyes. Laugh, then selfless love will change you back." The next morning, of course, each has a meltdown after they awake somehow transformed into the other.
After hurling a few cross insults, the shock of recognition sets in, and humorous situations ensue as Anna proceeds to spend the day as a shrink while Dr. Coleman resigns herself to returning to high school. Will the mess get sorted out before the wedding. Or will the situation go kablooey? What do you think? Keep in mind that this is a Disney production.
A hilarious, heartwarming, surprise summer treat.
Excellent. Rated PG for adult themes and mild epithets.
end of review.