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FREAKY FRIDAY

Review by Michael Jacobson

Stars:  Jamie Lee Curtis, Lindsay Lohan, Mark Harmon, Harold Gould, Chad Michael Murray
Director:  Mark Waters
Audio:  Dolby Digital 5.1
Video:  Anamorphic Widescreen 1.85:1, Full Frame 1.33:1
Studio:  Walt Disney
Features:  See Review
Length:  97 Minutes
Release Date:  December 16, 2003

“Oh…I’m old!!”

“I BEG your pardon?!”

“I’m like the Crypt Keeper!!”

Film ***1/2

The original Freaky Friday is one of my fondest memories of going to the movies as a child.  Around the time Herbie Goes Bananas came out, I went with my kid nephew to see it.  It happened to be paired up as a double billing with Friday.  Going in, I was really only interested in seeing my favorite VW Bug back in action, but coming away, I was much more impressed with its companion in exhibition.  Funny, fast, and well acted by young Jodie Foster and Barbara Harris, it remains one of my favorite family films to this day.

A favorite movie, but not necessarily a sacred one.  When I first heard Disney was going to release a remake, I didn’t recoil in horror.  Rather, I was intrigued by the possibilities.  The original picture was still a laugh riot, but had obviously gotten dated in its 30 or so years.  There was plenty of room to update the story, the ideas, and the themes, while still packing plenty of chuckles.  The key was in finding actresses who could recreate the magic of Foster and Harris.

They did, and then some!  Young Lindsay Lohan, who cut her teeth on another Disney remake The Parent Trap, and the inimitable Jamie Lee Curtis found chemistry and comic perfection together.  Like the original, the script was funny, the possibilities were satisfyingly explored, but best of all, there was a modern sensibility about it all.  Themes like loss of a husband/father, remarriage, and women juggling a home and career are all touched on without being hammered home, which would have gotten in the way of the humor.

Anna Coleman (Lohan) is a 15 year old girl with problems.  School weighs heavy on her, she has difficulties with teachers and other students who don’t seem to like her, her little brother is a constant pest, and her rock band is still trying to get beyond the garage…not to mention her dream boy Jake (Murray) doesn’t seem to know she exists.  Her mother, Dr. Tess Coleman (Curtis) has problems of her own, including trying to manage a psychiatry practice with lots of needy and demanding patients, an upcoming marriage to Ryan (Harmon), and of course, dealing with her easily wounded daughter.

Both are so caught up in their situations that they can’t quite see the world through each other’s eyes.  When Anna’s group gets a big audition chance, it falls on the evening of Tess’ wedding rehearsal dinner, causing even more friction and a big scene in a Chinese restaurant.  But with the cracking of a pair of unusual fortune cookie, a big change comes.

That change is, of course, that Tess and Anna wake up in each other’s bodies on one of the biggest days of their lives!  What will Tess do, now that she has to take Anna’s college entrance test, deal with her daughter’s crush on Jake, suffer through teachers who won’t give her a break, and feel the peer pressure of her bandmates who need her for the big audition?  And of course, what will Anna do now that she has to deal with her mom’s patients, the wedding plans, Ryan’s expressions of love, and a major book-promoting television appearance?

I confess, I thought the movie started just a tad weakly.  The set-up played kind of like a bad after school special.  But once Tess and Anna switch roles, the movie picks up a hilarious head of steam that never relents before the finish line.

The key to a premise as incredible as this is the ability to really believe your two characters are inhabiting each other’s physical forms.  That’s one aspect that makes both Freaky Friday movies arguably the best of the ‘switcheroo’ pictures; they not only got it right once, but twice.  Fresh faced Lindsay Lohan and venerable Jamie Lee Curtis are absolutely perfect not only in their ability to create characters for themselves, but then to channel each other’s characters for the roller coaster ride of mayhem.  I loved both of them tremendously; the two make real magic together.

This for me is the funniest movie of 2003.  I laughed hard and often, and was constantly amazed by the movie’s ability to throw one topper after another.  But I also responded to the more sentimental message, which is conveyed better here than in the original.  Namely, that mother and daughter do finally learn to see the world as the other does, and that despite their differences and their body-switching crisis, they manage to really pull through for each other at their most crucial moments.  That helps bring a rewarding end to a frightfully funny premise.

Freaky Friday is the rare remake that can take a simple premise and find even more gold in it.  This film is a guaranteed rollicking good time for the whole family.

Video ***1/2

Disney did a fine job with their anamorphic transfer (full frame also included) that keeps the colors and images well intact throughout.  Very little grain was evident; for the most part, flesh tones and other shades looked very good.  No complaints.

Audio ***

The solid soundtrack of alt-rock songs make up the best part of this 5.1 mix; they come through loud, clear and with plenty of bass.  The rest of the mix is well balanced, with minimal use of the surround channels, but clean dialogue in the front and a fair amount of dynamic range.

Features **1/2

A handful of enjoyable extras round out the enjoyment of the disc, starting with the featurette “Backstage Pass with Lindsay Lohan”.  The young actress takes us on a behind-the-scenes tour of the set as she introduces us to her co-stars and crew, and talks about the fun she had making the picture.  There is one deleted (it packs a punch!) and two alternate endings, all introduced by director Mark Waters.  Finally, there is a short but amusing blooper reel and two music videos.

I really would have loved a commentary with Jamie Lee and Lindsay a la the Julie Andrews and Anne Hathaway one for The Princess Diaries…that would have been a fun listen!

Summary:

There’s nothing freaky about this terrific remake.  Freaky Friday is not only a terrific comedy for the whole family, but arguably the funniest film of the year.