Freaky Friday (2003)
The body-swapping movie was so en vogue a while back. It began with the original 70s film Freaky Friday (which co-starred Jodie Foster), and then the 80s hit and we had Fred Savage trading places with the likes of Judge Reinhold and Tom Hanks becoming Big. Heck, Disney even remade Freaky Friday in the early 90s starring Shelly Long (where have you gone, Shelly Long?). So will audiences welcome a second Freaky Friday remake when it appears that body-swapping films went the way of synth scores?
Tess Coleman (Jamie Lee Curtis) is a therapist with a long list of needy clients and access to about every portable electronic on the planet. Shes planning her wedding to Ryan (Mark Harmon), and as the details get crunched so does more and more stress. Her 15 year-old daughter Annabell (Lindsey Lohan) is the spunky and defiant teen that just cant see eye-to-eye with mom. Shes tormented by a bratty younger brother and is trying to get her pop-punk band (which has three, count em, three guitarists; a bit much I think) into competitions. Annabell is perturbed with her mom for remarrying so quickly after her father’s death. Is there anyway these two can get along? They’ll find out when they swap places due to a mystical Chinese fortune cookie.
Curtis is simply magnificent. She gets to have the most fun as the teen cutting loose in the adult body. She has her teen mannerisms and vocal tics down cold. Most of all, Curtis is having loads of fun and it becomes infectious, but not in the strained and superficial way Charlie’s Angels 2 tried to convince you with. She turns in a splendid comedic performance utilizing her tomboy magnetism. Shes a pure joy to watch because she goes for broke with her performance. I cant even think of what Annette Benning would have been like in the role. Ditto Kelly Osbourne as her daughter (they were originally cast).
Lohan is equally up to the plate. She has a natural flair for comedy and also gets Curtis stilted mannerisms down to a T. Her line delivery is great. Lohan was in the 1998 remake of The Parent Trap, but with Freaky Friday she’s grown up into Avril Lavigne apparently. I also feel that Lohan has much more charisma and acting ability than in all of Hilary Duff.
The body-swapping gimmick is generally a straight forward path for the characters to literally walk in each others shoes and learn valuable lessons. But even so, I found myself getting choked up toward the end. It was surprising the amount you care for these two characters. Sure you know exactly how this whole enterprise will end, but exceptional acting and clever writing elevate the material.
Even more surprising is some risqué elements in the story. When Annabell is in her mothers body, her hunky crush starts falling for mom. Of course the Disney folks dont let this ever reach Mrs. Robinson territory before a tidy resolution. Even more risqué is the impending marriage of Tess. If the two ladies cant reverse their body-swap, Tess daughter will be stuck in the grown-up body, the same one that will be married and, yikes, be engaged in all kinds of honeymoon activities. A 15 year-old marrying and having sex with a 50 year-old man? Creepy.
Some things of Freaky Friday feel tacky and out of place, like a near racist portrayal of nosy Chinese women. And it’s never explained what Annabell’s hunky crush does at her high school. He works there, but your guess is as good as mine for what exactly he does besides wandering the halls and making doe-eyes at young girls.
Freaky Friday is exuberant, poppy, charming and refreshingly fun. The acting from our two female leads is strong and the steadied direction from Mark Waters (The House of Yes) balances a quick pace with airy humor and pathos (and a strong soundtrack of pop-punk covers). I think Im more surprised than anyone that the three Disney films released summer 2003 (Finding Nemo and Pirates of the Caribbean as well) were, by far, the three most sheer enjoyable films during the summer of 2003. Freaky indeed.
Nate’s Grade: B+