As if to suggest that we’re in for little more than a gratingly contemporary interpretation of a timeless hit, the new Freaky Friday begins with the bouncy melody of the Turtles’s “Happy Together” morphing into a cacophonous pop-punk version of the song, followed soon after by the unwelcome appearance of a guitars-and-drums cover of Britney Spears’s “…Baby One More Time.” But while both of these feedback-enhanced sonic renditions fail to replicate the originals’ guilty-pleasure charms, the same cannot be said for Mark S. Waters’s updated version of Disney’s 1976 classic starring Barbara Harris and Jodie Foster as a mother and daughter who, through a stroke of magic, wind up switching bodies for a day. A jovial old-fashioned family comedy thankfully devoid of crass bodily-function jokes or cartoonish perverts, the film strives for straightforward, mild good fun, and—unlike the torturous body-swapping ‘80s comedies Like Father, Like Son and Vice Versa—proves exceptionally adept at delivering the goods. Jamie Lee Curtis and Lindsay Lohan play the antagonistic mother-daughter duo forced to endure a hectic day literally walking in the other’s shoes. Curtis’s Tess Coleman is primed to marry blandly appealing Ryan (Mark Harmon) in two days, while Lohan’s Anna is struggling to deal with a snooty cheerleader classmate, her pesky little brother Harry (Ryan Malgarini), and her rock band’s big audition, which just happens to be on the same night as mom’s rehearsal dinner. After a Chinese restaurateur’s meddling mother gives Tess and Anna enchanted fortune cookies that compel them (against their will) to swap corporeal vessels—a strange bit of “Oriental mysticism” stereotyping that seems at odds with the film’s thematic focus on tolerance and understanding—the two acclimate themselves to their new situation by splitting up and going about the other’s daily routines. Tess returns to high school to straighten out her daughter’s prejudiced teacher and wild friends while Anna gives her mom’s aging façade a benign 21st-century makeover (no trendy tattoos, just an ear piercing and a haircut) and dishes out some straight talk to her neurotic therapy patients. Although the script turns Curtis’s Anna and Lohan’s Tess into slightly exaggerated caricatures—Curtis employs the word “dude” more habitually than any teen would dare—both actresses’ willingness to gamely embarrass themselves for the sake of humor makes it easy to ignore the contrived obstacles concocted by the film’s somewhat overstuffed script. In a dreadful summer of obnoxiously aggressive and empty sequels, it’s refreshing to find a quaint comedy extolling the virtues of thoughtful consideration and selfless love this pleasantly entertaining.
- Mark S. Waters
- Heather Hach, Leslie Dixon
- Jamie Lee Curtis, Lindsay Lohan, Mark Harmon, Harold Gould, Chad Murray, Stephen Tobolowsky, Christina Vidal, Ryan Malgarini
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