Rebellious 15 year-old Anna Coleman (Lindsay Lohan) and her psychiatrist mother Tess (Jamie Lee Curtis) are engaged in a constant battle of wills. Anna believes her mother is remarrying too quickly while Tess disapproves of the rock and roll music Anna plays with her garage band. During an argument at a Chinese restaurant, Tess and Anna switch bodies. Now trapped inside her mother, Anna must counsel patients and appear devoted to fiancé Ryan (Mark Harmon). Tess, meanwhile, is forced to attend school as Anna and negotiate a budding romance with local boy Jake (Chad Murray). Neither is very successful at imitating the other and as the complications mount up, mother and daughter slowly learn to appreciate the problems each faces.
Review by Louise Keller:
The concept might not be new, but Freaky Friday goes a long way to show that ‘it’s not what you do, but the way that you do it’ that makes all the difference. Two effervescent performances elevate this Disney comedy into a funny and thoroughly enjoyable experience as Jamie Lee Curtis and Lindsay Lohan swap bodies and make mayhem.
Mary Rodgers penned the novel in 1976, which was subsequently made into a film starring Barbara Harris and 14 year-old Jodie Foster. Remade in 1995 for television with Shelley Long and Gaby Hoffman, there was an Australian parallel in the Guy Pearce/Claudia Karvan 1996 film, Dating the Enemy. And there was Visa Versa (Judge Reinhold/Fred Savage in 1988; Roger Liversey/Anthony Newley in 1943) and Dudley Moore and Kirk Cameron in Like Father, Like Son in 1987. There have been several variations on the theme, like Tom Hanks in Big (1988), Rachel Griffiths in Me Myself I (1999) and Mel Gibson in What Women Want (2000). But back to Freaky Friday ...
With its clever script (Heather Hach, Leslie Dixon – Mrs Doubtfire) and insightful direction by Mark Waters (Head Over Heels), everything is right about the tone, the establishment of the characters and all-important relationships between them. Jamie Lee Curtis’ organised and rational-thinking psychologist Tess just can’t cut through the generation gap with her rebellious teen Anna. While Tess juggles patients, phones, shopping and family, Anna is just a normal teenager struggling to conform and stay out of detention. Besides she has an almighty crush on the cutest guy at school.
The mannerisms of both Tess and Anna are so well established, that when the switch occurs, the humour of mum playing goo-goo eyes at heart throb Jake, and Anna trying to avoid kissing her mother’s fiancé are priceless. The scene when Jake falls for Anna (in the guise of Tess) is absolutely believable – Curtis can make us believe anything! Grunge down and drab up is what happens, and nothing can be as cool as your mother’s silver credit card – even if you have to wear her body in order to shop till you drop! Curtis gives a fabulous turn as the horrified teen trapped in her body. And what a wonderful moment when she catches sight of her ‘new’ face in the mirror and shrieks ‘I’m old!’ Lohan is a knockout – the nuances and control that she shows in her dual roles is extraordinary, never overplaying the subdued control of Tess, but managing an energetic and hefty contrast as the rocker with spunk. She was 12 years old when she was cast in The Parent Trap, and now at 17, she is unstoppable.
It’s a satisfying film with all parties getting a glimpse of life from the other side and gleaning understanding from that. A delightful fantasy that will make you smile, Freaky Friday is mischievous fun that sticks.
Review by Richard Kuipers:
The third version of Disney's 1977 body switcheroo comedy based on Mary Rogers' novel is a cheery piece of nonsense that has nothing to do with the real world and is enjoyable on precisely those terms. Take the garage band young Anna plays in for example. You've never heard a more professional-sounding teen combo than these suburban kids whose musicianship and songwriting skills are already on par with most of the bands they're attempting to emulate. The same applies to Anna's squeaky-clean brand of teen rebellion. Most parents would be relieved if their children were as "troublesome" as Anna whose major crimes appear to be navel piercing, habitual banishments to the school detention room and bickering with her little brother Harry (Ryan Malgarini).
Such is the statute of behavioural limitations in Disney movie-land but it doesn't matter too much because the performances of Lindsay Lohan and Jamie Lee Curtis are so appealing. Lohan, who played dual roles in the 1998 remake of The Parent Trap (and incidentally was the first red-headed child signed by the Ford modelling agency), is a delight in the part originally played by Jodie Foster straight after her Taxi Driver assignment. She's convincing and appealing as a teenager who thinks she knows it all and even better when channelling her mother's disapproving personality into her body.
Curtis - still a fox at 45 - also revels in conditions that actors must dream of. Scenes in which she undergoes a make-over and emerges as the neighbourhood's funkiest mother are very funny and her command of teen-speak is spot-on. Better still, we can fully understand why Anna's dream boy Jake (Chad Murray) would fall for Tess and want to race her around town on his motorbike. Freaky Friday runs through all the mix-ups you'd imagine and executes them with confident and lively strokes. Director Mark Waters injects plenty of energy into the neatly modernised screenplay by Leslie Dixon and Disney writing fellowship graduate Heather Hatch; there are very few dull spots along the way. Dixon and Hatch's script cleverly sidesteps the adult themes inherent in the relationship of Tess and husband-to-be Ryan (Mark Harmon) and manages to make its messages about mutual respect less cringing than we might have imagined. Although the 1987 Tom Hanks/Fred Savage film Big still ranks as the best example of this sub-genre, Freaky Friday does enough to earn an honourable mention.
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FREAKY FRIDAY (PG)
CAST: Jamie Lee Curtis, Lindsay Lohan, Harold Gould, Janet Choi, Chad Murray, Mark Harmon, Ryan Malgarini
PRODUCER: Andrew Gunn
DIRECTOR: Mark S. Waters
SCRIPT: Heather Hach, Leslie Dixon (Mary Rodgers, novel)
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Oliver Wood
EDITOR: Bruce Green
MUSIC: Rolfe Kent
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Cary White
RUNNING TIME: 93 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: BVI
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: Qld, Vic: September 18, 2003; NSW, SA, WA: September 25, 2003