That is the story of Freaky Friday, the 1976 film that starred then unknown Jodie Foster as the daughter. Since then, several films have explored the same out-of-body experience idea with the same type of parent-child relationship, two most notable ones are Like Father, Like Son and Vice Versa. Walt Disney Pictures, whose crop of live-action flicks are box-office duds unless they are remakes, naturally decide to do a remake. In place of Jodie Foster, whose single-parent image is probably deemed "unwholesome" to Disney, is Lindsay Lohan as 15-year-old daughter Anna Coleman. (Lohan was in another Disney remake The Parent Trap.) But Lohan is no box-office draw, so enter Jamie Lee Curtis to play the mother Tess Coleman.
Like most teenagers in Disney films, Anna is not a typical girl. She's an aspiring rock band musician and a struggling high school student oppressed by her English teacher and a conceited cheerleader. Mother Tess is a psychiatrist with an electronic organizer, a beeper and 2 cellphones (one of them equipped with earphones) rigged together as her 24-hour on-call service. That way, she can respond to at least two of them at the same time without interrupting one for the other. Anna needs her mother's attention but Tess is too busy responding to her electronic peripherals to attend to her daughter, which leads to a few quarrels between the two. Then one day at a Chinese restaurant in Chinatown (where else can you find a Chinese restuarant in a Hollywood movie?), the mother of the restaurant's manager gives each of them a fortune cookie with a poetic message. (N.B. The Westerns invented the fortune cookie. The Chinese would rather pray to Buddha.) Both mother and daughter recites the message, and they are switched.
This is a Disney movie. As such, the under-18 characters often get spotlighted more than the over-18 characters. The law of smarter children and dumber adults is never applied enough. That explains why Tess's fiance Ryan (Mark Harmon) is so dull, her son Harry (Ryan Malgarini) - Anna's tormenting little brother - has too much wit, and Grandpa (Harold Gould) acts like a nutcase who jumps the gun whenever he hears or feels an earthquake. The same rule of thumb is not lost on the two lead characters. It is no wonder that Lohan comes off stronger, smarter and more animated as the mom in daughter's body than Curtis' somewhat bloated attempt to be the daughter in mom's body. Curtis tries to act like a child throughout the 'switching' ordeal but fails to be a convincing one.
The only plot point that is remotely noteworthy is resolving the conflict of Anna wanting to be in a rock band contest with her band but it clashes with Tess' wedding rehearsal night. How does mother-daughter and daughter-mother work this one out? Anna insists that it is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, which is implausible in today's age of American Idol. But somehow they are able to work it out. This leads to a stirring speech by Anna that breaks the spell and reverts them to their normal selves, leading to a tidy happy ending - another staple of Disney movies.
A romantic triangle is teased between mother and daughter by a young hearthrob-looking teen Jake (Chad Murray). What is Disney thinking by having the "of almost legal age" Jake falling for the obviously older Tess when social logic, as well as Hollywood cultural directives, dictates that he is to be into pretty young things like Anna? It does not even disturb the Disney executives one bit that a certain type of relationship declared illegal by law is being showcased in a movie that carries their studio name, a name that is synonymous with family-oriented entertainment.
Nothing about Freaky Friday is really freaky, as its theme is supposed to be. The plot is wholly unoriginal, and so is the concept. The effects of body-switching are not developed, only showcased for laughs. Curtis is uninteresting despite her star power. The premise of her character is ridiculous but expected in a Disney film where adult characters, especially parents, usually have ridiculous idiosyncracies. Unfortunately, that suffocates much of her charms. Lohan is sharp but not outrageous, and the only redeeming quality about the movie. Unless you are crazy about her, there is no reason to recommend this un-Freaky escapade.
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