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Review by Brad Green:
Fortune cookies are always so bloody unoriginal. Usually you don’t even get your fortune. Just some proverb that’s been around since the days of, say, Confucius. Who probably wrote it. Even the magic ones don’t offer anything fresh if the premise of Freaky Friday is to be believed. Mother and daughter share a Chinese meal, and before you can say, “Confucius say…” they’ve switched bodies. 

Just for once I’d like to see a fortune cookie with a fresh message. “Opening fortune cookies is a big waste of time,” or, “fortune cookies are a major source of tooth decay”, or for the magic ones that can facilitate the swapperoos, how about something beyond male switches with female, or young switches with old? How come we never see brainiac switches with bimbo? Sure one party would end up with all the advantage, but who said life’s fair? No fortune cookie I’ve ever read.

Anyway, the problem for this soundtrack is that the plot relies on accentuating the generation gap, and one of the devices is to make the daughter a garage band guitarist. The music reflects this, which means of course that it’s mostly awful. Again I blame fortune cookies. How come screen writers, who are renowned for ordering in Chinese delivery as they burn the midnight oil over their manuscripts, never find a cookie in the box with some sage advice like, “Make the daughter a budding concert pianist.”

As it is, the opening track here is actually rather good. A sturdy guitar riff and solid melody allows Lindsay Lohan to belt out a no frills rocker of the kind that would have once been a big hit for Pat Benatar. However, from its final chords the garage door swings open and out roll some very ordinary sounds.

Fresh from destroying The Police classic Message In A Bottle on the latest Rugrats soundtrack, American Hi-Fi pose a question here that would test the wisdom of a fortune cookie guru. Is it worse for them to savage a great song, or do what they do here and deliver a wretched performance of one of their own wretched numbers? And if that’s not enough to test a cookie’s cleverness, how about this? Why is it considered cool for grungy garage bands to whine through their noses, but country twang is deemed as hip as a knee bone? If the cookies don’t have the answer perhaps the lead singer of the Halo Frinlies can help, because she racks one up for the chicks in almost matching American Hi-Fi’s tuneless honking.

Less of an imponderable is Lillix’s cover of What I Like About You, one of those perennial pop weeds that keep cropping up to prove the theory that the more annoying a melody the more likely it is to stick in our heads. Even worse is a song by Lash called Beauty Queen that embodies all the profound artistic sensibility and metaphorical significance of a Miss World pageant; and in an apparent attempt at comic relief we get Chad Michael Murray’s a cappella stab at Brittany Spears’ Baby One More Time, an effort that would struggle to win a world’s worst shower singer pageant. Genuine comic relief is much needed by this stage, but this is about as funny as watching an uncoordinated acrobat break their neck attempting a cartwheel. Mind you listening to Joey Ramone shred the gorgeous melody of What A Wonderful World is about as painful as actually suffering the broken neck.

Still, Christina Vidal, Forty Foot Echo and Ashlee Simpson all deliver strong songs that really don’t deserve to be buried beneath such tripe. And the best track, though completely incongruous with the rest of the record, is Rolfe Kent’s orchestral composition simply titled Fortune Cookie. It’s a delightfully schizoid conceit that creates a daisy chain of disparate styles. Ominous strings become whimsical strings, there’s a little piano, some sparse echoing percussion, violin accents, violin glissandos, a moment’s reggae, a few pounding big drums and basically it never seem to know where it’s going, and doesn’t seem to care, and neither should we because it works all the way. 

It’s the perfect representation really of a topsy-turvy, switcheroo scenario; and a full-on score of this kind would have made for a terrific CD. I’m still not enticed by the old mother-daughter swap though, and I think I’ve got a suggestion that will not only improve the next of these movies but ensure a scintillating soundtrack to boot. Imagine Kylie Minogue and James Morrison sharing one of those cookies. Poor Kylie mightn’t find herself quite as popular wearing James’s physiognomy, but the mind absolutely boggles at what the virtuoso trumpeter could do with Kylie’s finely tuned botty. 

Published September 25, 2003

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TITLE: Freaky Friday
ID: 337392
Hollywood Records/FMR
ARTISTS: Lindsay Lohan; Simple Plan; Lillix; American Hi-Fi; Forty Foot Echo; Halo Friendlies; Christina Vidal; Chad Michael Murray; Bowling For Soup; The Donnas; Andrew W.K.; Diffuser; Lash; Ashlee Simpson; Joey Ramone; Rolfe Kent

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