Freaky Friday (2003) / Comedy-Romance

MPAA Rated: PG for thematic elements and some language
Running time:
93 min.

Cast: Jamie Lee Curtis, Lindsay Lohan, Mark Harmon, Chad Michael Murray, Ryan Malgarini, Harold Gould
Director:  Mark S. Waters
Screenplay: Leslie Dixon, Heather Hach (based on the novel by Mary Rodgers)

Review published August 7, 2003

Originally a book by Mary Rodgers, later made into a popular 1976 movie with Jodie Foster, you've probably heard of Freaky Friday before and understand the concept.  A quibbling mother and daughter trade personalities, with each inhabiting the body of the other for a period, learning what it's like to be in each other's shoes.  It's been done in a variety of forms in film, but rarely, if ever, as good as this latest incarnation, which is about as perfect in its delivery as I've seen.

Once in a while, although not nearly as often as I'd like, a pure-entertainment film comes along that exceeds my every expectation.  Many of these films have the label "Disney" attached to them, and now I'm beginning to finally catch on to what countless others have already known long before me.  Sometimes "broad appeal" doesn't always equate to "unpalatable to savvy filmgoers," and Disney's formula for family film success is long-standing because they are just so damned good at it.

Disney not only frequently adheres to a certain formula, but they also know not to be afraid to remake a kids classic, which they have been doing with increasing fashion these days.  It would seem a no-brainer.  Parents are attracted to the name of a movie they remember seeing when they were kids, and the kids of today want to see a more updated version, as old movies aren't always appealing to the youth.  What you have is a movie that everyone wants to see, and judging by the reaction of the audience at the theater I went to, appeals across every generation.  Parents relate to Jamie Lee Curtis (Virus, True Lies), teenagers relate to Lindsay Lohan (The Parent Trap, Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen), the older viewers relate to the grandfather (Gould, The Master of Disguise), and the youngest of children to the conniving little brother (Malgarini, How to Eat Fried Worms).   It was interesting to see how certain groups could find humor in almost everything involving a particular character, which only goes to show there's lots of truths hidden underneath the fun atmosphere that people can relate to their own lives.

That's not to say that it will appeal to everyone equally, as the female characters are far more interesting and more acutely developed, as you'd probably expect from a mother/daughter story written by two woman adapted from a woman's book.  The male counterparts in the film are more drawn from fantasy, with Mark Harmon (Local Boys, Wyatt Earp) playing the idealized father and husband, Chad Michael Murray (A Cinderella Story, House of Wax) as the token "cute guy," with the funny, out-of-it grandfather and cute little boy thrown in the mix.  Yet for a film primarily of interest to women and girls, I have to say that an adult male like me still found it to be highly enjoyable all the same.

With exceptional direction by Mark S. Waters (The House of Yes), an insightful script by Leslie Dixon (Mrs. Doubtfire, The Thomas Crown Affair) and first-time screenwriter Heather Hach, and great cast selection, with especially impressive performances by Curtis and Lohan, Freaky Friday adds up to being one of the most entertaining, fun, and in many ways, touching, films of 2003.  It's not going to wow you with depth, or achieve great artistic significance, but as a dessert film, it hits the spot just right.

Qwipster's rating:

2003 Vince Leo