While the likeable Pirates of the Caribbean stands as an example of a good Disney film, its origin--that of an amusement park ride--seems a little desperate. And when Disney isn't mining their amusement park rides for film ideas (stay tuned for Haunted Mansion), they are simply re-doing some of their past hits to make a quick buck.
Freaky Friday is a re-make of the 1976 Disney film starring Jodie Foster. It allows, yet again, for a parent and child to undergo the old switcheroo and experience life in one another's bodies. A slew of late '80's films, including Vice Versa (starring the one and only Judge Reinhold) and Like Father, Like Son (starring the spry and chipper Kirk Cameron), used that same plot gimmick repeatedly, so often in fact that one might believe that no Hollywood mogul would see the need to revisit the body switching genre for the next 50 years or so.
Alas, Disney loves to recycle yesterday's hits, so Freaky Friday gets another go, this time with Lindsay Lohan (the Parent Trap re-make) as daughter Annabel and Jamie Lee Curtis (Halloween and a few of its crappy sequels) as mother Tess. After having a nasty fight in a Chinese restaurant, a hideously stereotyped Chinese grandmother feeds them tainted fortune cookies, and they wake up the next day in each other's bodies. The switch has taken place just before mom's wedding, and right as Annabel's rock band is set for its "big audition."
Of the two actresses forced to act different ages, it is Lohan who fares best and is the most convincing, except for the moments where she's supposed to be playing guitar in a rock band, where she looks clueless. Her typically rebellious teen gives way to a tight-assed mom forced to "grunge out" her clothing choices and attend high school. Lohan's performance is surprisingly non-conventional as she displays the kind of confusion and frustration an older person might feel when forced to relive the teen years. It's a very good performance in a not-so-good movie.
Curtis basically goes the goofy route, getting to blurt out teenaged slang, go on shopping sprees and ride around with young boys on motorcycles. While Lohan manages to capture the spirit of Curtis' earlier performance in her acting, Curtis seems to ignore the dour and aggravated teen angst Lohan conveyed before the switch. While Curtis gets some good laughs, she's, for lack of a better term, upstaged by the youngster. There's nothing original in her work.
The film almost saves itself with some nicely moving passages involving the mother's husband-to-be, played warmly and realistically by Mark Harmon. Young actor Ryan Malgarini provides some laughter as Harry, Tess' son, jaw agape in stunned observance of his mother's suddenly juvenile behavior. Harry's rivalry with his grumpy grandfather (Harold Gould) also provides a few chuckles.
For the most part, the film feels like something that should have been made for TV and shucked off on the public during some slow Saturday night. Lohan and, to some degree, Curtis manage to keep the proceedings far from terrible, but the film is kind of worthless in the end. The Jodie Foster version was far from perfect, but it did benefit from being the first go-round, giving it a slight advantage in the originality department.
Overall, the script's predictability and a bad taste throwback to racist cinema at the Chinese restaurant keep Freaky Friday a few shades from recommendation. While the film falls short of goodness, look for the talented Lohan to impress in future vehicles that don't involve rehash scripts and air guitars.