El Bicho's Hive

A Collection of Reviews Covering the Worlds of Art and Entertainment alongside other Snobbish Ramblings.

Tuesday, December 16, 2003


Directed by Mark S. Waters
Written by Heather Hach and Leslie Dixon
Based on the novel Freaky Friday by Mary Rodgers
Starring Jamie Lee Curtis, Lindsay Lohan

With special guest reviewers Mono Sobrina & Sobrino Poco Loco

I know what you're thinking, shouldn't Sombrero Grande have reviewed this? Under normal conditions you would be correct, but the kids outvoted Uncle El Bicho this weekend, so I will seize the opportunity to break the Grande-Disney review monopoly, which is locked on tighter than “The Cobra,” a vicious sleeper hold that’s deemed illegal by some sanctioning bodies.

If I remember correctly, Disney re-releases their animated films every seven years because the company wants to tap the perpetually new audiences of kids and parents. This is a brilliant marketing strategy, but it has yet to cross over to their live action films, so we get the new and improved, third version of Freaky Friday. “Third?” you may ask. Fret not; you aren't alone in being unaware of the television remake from the '90s. Even without the children’s pleas, I was curious to see what was going to happen in this new version. I remember seeing the first film when I was a kid. To be more accurate, I remember the waterskiing sequence and the special effect of their images crossing the screen as the body switching took place.

The film’s premise is mom and daughter don’t understand each other, so of course, what better way to learn about someone else then to walk a day in their shoes, literally. This time the feuding duo are Tess, played by Jamie Lee Curtis, an uptight, professional, widowed mother of two, and her daughter Annabell, played by Lindsay Lohan, a high-school misfit. The film doesn't do much more with the characterizations than I described so don't feel that I cheated you.

Tess is a psychologist with very needy patients, who take up a lot of her time. She is also planning her wedding, which is set to take place two days after the movie starts, so it's reasonable to believe that she doesn’t have much time for the kids right now. She carries numerous phones, planners and beepers to show how busy she is. Tess doesn’t interact well with her daughter, though. When Annabell’s band plays past six o’clock, instead of going out and letting them know that time’s up, Tess cuts the circuit breaker.

The daughter's high school situation is odd. Annabell is a punkette in the Avril Lavigne mode, a rock guitarist in a band along with some of her female friends. She's picked on by a teacher as well as by a popular girl, Stacy, who used to be Anna’s friend. First off, it's a stretch of imagination to believe that pretty, popular girls like Stacy would lash out violently. They wouldn’t lower themselves to that level because they think they're better than everyone else. Besides, she could get jocks or some other mindless lackey to do her evil bidding. Even more confusing is why wouldn't Anna and her friends fight back. Punk chicks love beating up stuck-up, preppy girls. The screenwriters either haven’t been to school in a while or didn’t want the true nature of high school sociology to stand in the way of their plot.

The family and Tess’ fiancé, Ryan, played by Mark Harmon, go out to eat at their favorite Chinese restaurant. Tess and Annabell excuse themselves so they can go argue yet again about how hard they have it and that they aren’t supportive of each other. An old Chinese woman interrupts their squabbling with fortune cookies. They eat them and experience an earthquake. No one else noticed anything. In the morning they wake up in each other's bodies. That’s one crazy, ancient Chinese secret. An interesting television series could be created about this woman and her magic cookies as long as no Asian groups threatened to ineffectually boycott.

Since Anna and Tess both have important things scheduled for the day, they go out as each other. Tess discovers that the popular girls are actually as mean as Anna said. Stacy pretends to befriend Anna only to frame her for cheating on a big test. Why Stacy goes to the trouble is never explained like most of the puzzling moments in the film. Tess gets revenge when Jake, the young guy Anna is gaga over, lets Tess into the room where the tests are kept. Not only does Tess get to finish filling in the test, she takes Stacy’s test, erases all the answers and writes, “I am stupid!” across it.

The teacher, Mr. Bates (which isn’t the best name to be in a kid's film, but it’s better than that kid Boner from Growing Pains) goes out of his way to punish Anna. When Tess correctly responds to his question about Hamlet, she is marked down for overreaching. Tess one-ups him by explaining that the reason Bates is being mean is because when they were kids Tess turned down Bates' offer to go to the prom since she had a boyfriend at the time. Obviously scarred by this event, Bates still holds a grudge over 20 years later and is willing to risk his job over it by taking it out on Anna.

Anna's day is not as enlightening. She gets her mother a makeover and sits in with her patients. She gets to know Jake because she feels braver using her mom's body. This causes Jake to think he's infatuated with Tess and he chases her around to the rehearsal dinner and even the wedding. Anna doesn't learn much about her mother, but she does get to find out about how others feel about herself. At a parent-teacher conference, Anna discovers her annoying little brother, Harry, considers her to be someone he admires. She also learns that Ryan wants to get to know Anna and not feel like he’s being forced upon her as a new dad. Of course, it also helps that Ryan tells Anna and Tess to leave the rehearsal dinner for 20 minutes so Anna’s band can try out for an opening on the Wango Tango Tour. Ryan is now super cool.

Tess doesn’t know how to play guitar, but she pretends while Anna plays offstage. No one notices that Tess isn’t playing the guitar correctly, not in the band, not in the audience, and not even the music professionals who are judging the contest. But since we all know the movie has to end positively, to quote Zack de la Rocha, “what better place than here, what better time than now.”

After bonding, the women head back to the rehearsal dinner. Since they don’t know when they will switch back, Tess tells Anna to postpone the wedding. Tess and Ryan love each other, so he’ll understand and accept it. Anna starts to announce this to all the guests, but instead she welcomes him to the family with a mushy speech about love and family. Another earthquake takes place and the women switch back, but this time everyone in the room notices it. The wedding happens, Jake and Anna talk and everything is wrapped up nice and neat.

The script does an okay job of retaining the voices of the characters after the switch, but since they are generic mom and generic daughter, it's not difficult. The acting of Lindsay and Jamie was good because they were believable and kept their mannerisms accurate after the switch. Even Mark Harmon puts in a fine performance with what little he has to work with.

The biggest problem I had was the scene where Anna, in Tess' body, and Jake are talking about music and rave on about bands like The Hives and The Ramones, but then go out of their way to slam The White Stripes. Are they kidding?! The White Stripes are the best new band around. I like The Hives, but they have the same sound for every song. This scene is either a commentary on how little the kids of today know about music or it’s a reflection on how stupid and square the creative forces behind this movie are. The White Stripes music and videos are more inventive than the combined output of the people responsible for putting this retread out.

Admittedly, the movie wasn't targeted for me; so let me put the kids to work who took me to it. Ten-year-old Mono Sobrina says, "I thought that Freaky Friday was the best movie I have seen all year. I would buy it today if it came out on DVD. I have seen it two times in one week and am waiting to go again. I loved the movie because it was funny and my favorite actresses were in the movie. The part I liked most was that Anna was in a rock band, like I want to be in one day. I also liked the parts where the daughter was trying to make decisions for the mother, and the scene when the grandpa yelled, 'Earthquake,' and ran out the house and Harry yelled at him and said, 'Grandpa, that is not our car.' The fashions in the movie were great."

Four-year-old Sobrino Poco Loco has a similar reaction. "This is the best movie I ever saw. It made me laugh and I want to see it again. The best part of the movie is when the daughter is in the mom's body and says, 'I'm old.'"

To wrap up, the kids will probably love Freaky Friday while the parents can tolerate it. Next week, I get to pick the movie, so I'm making them watch the family film The Bicycle Thief.