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Classic Hollywood Spotlight: Freaky Friday

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Aug 02, 2011 | 7:16am EDT

ALTThis weekend The Change-Up opens in theaters, and it’s that familiar formula: two people frustrated with their lives switch bodies and learn valuable lessons about appreciating what they’ve got. Unless, of course, at the end of The Change-Up Jason Bateman and Ryan Reynolds elect to remain in their new bodies. That would be amazing, but trust me, don’t count on it. We’ve got life lessons to learn, people.

The most famous body swap movie is Disney’s live-action classic Freaky Friday where a mother and daughter get their wish to step into the other’s shoes for “just one day!” Disney has made Freaky Friday three times, but my personal favorite is the 1976 original, starring a very young Jodie Foster. The 2006 version has Lindsay Lohan in the daughter role. A teenage Jodie Foster or Lindsay Lohan at any age? Come on. You know you want to go check out young Jodie Foster doing something other than playing a very serious prostitute in Martin Scorcese’s Taxi Driver. If there’s anything the world has forgotten it’s how funny Jodie Foster can be—but I’ve got another reason that the movie has a special place in my heart: it’s one of my mother’s favorite movies.

ALTI’ve talked before about my stepfather’s big bookcase full of VHS tapes, but I don’t think I’ve mentioned my mother’s small bit of territory in the otherwise dude-only zone. My mom had some tapes in there as well. Very lady-like stuff. Some Richard Simmons’s exercise tapes, The Sound of Music, Freaky Friday, and Candleshoe, another great Disney/Jodie Foster vehicle, one that never failed to get tears out of my mother.

Although honestly it doesn’t take much to get tears out of my mother. Actually I’ve seen her cry five times in the last three days.

My mom and grandmother and step-mom just visited me in Southern California. My grandma’s still plucky as can be— everyone who meets her calls her amazing. Still, mothers and daughters have a special kind of relationship. And that’s where that undercurrent of power comes in for Freaky Friday. The film seems to evoke a particular kind of terror in daughters that they will one day become their mothers, no matter how much they love them. Somewhere between thinking about The Change-Up, reminiscing about Freaky Friday, and watching the intense and wonderful and challenging and loving bond between my mother and grandmother, it occurred to me that buried somewhere underneath of the goofiness that is Freaky Friday lies that kernel of fear that we will, one day, become our parents.

ALTPart of the DNA of body switch movies is to learn that the grass is never greener, to appreciate who you are, and to learn that walking a mile in someone else’s shoes will inevitably lead to sore feet. Freaky Friday takes that one step further, brushing up against fears of mortality, sexuality, and that age old fear of becoming one’s parents. Freaky Friday’s a goofy, funny movie, but it also opens up a bit more depth than Ryan Reynolds learning that family can be oh so rewarding while Just Bateman discovers that being single again isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Spoiler alert.

So if you want to remember Jodie Foster’s brief, glorious, endearing time with Disney or you want to remember just how much fun the body switch movie could be, go back and check out a classic. Freaky Friday. The first and still the best.

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