Every once in a while a little family pic comes out that is truly endearing. Disney’s Freaky Friday a remake of the studio’s 1976 classic starring Barbara Harris and Jodie Foster as a mother and daughter who switch bodies for a day is certainly one of them. This update of Mary Rodgers’ novel however is fittingly contemporary: Tess (Jamie Lee Curtis) is a busy psychiatrist as well as a published author and her teenage daughter Anna (Lindsay Lohan) is a guitarist in a garage band. Their mother/daughter relationship is an archetypal one; Tess tries to be supportive while setting boundaries for Anna who like most 15-year-olds is moody and rebellious. They don’t see eye-to-eye especially when it comes to men. Anna thinks her mother a widow is marrying her boyfriend Ryan (Mark Harmon) way too soon after her father’s death while Tess think Anna’s crush Jake (Chad Michael Murray) is too old for her. During dinner at a Chinese restaurant on a Thursday evening the two eat fortune cookies that cause them to magically wake up the next morning inside the other’s body. Until they can figure out how to switch back Tess and Anna decide to carry on with each other’s daily routine and hope that no one will notice the change. This curse however turns out to be a blessing as Anna discovers the complexities of being a single working parent and Tess experiences high school in the 21st century.
Much of this film’s appeal rests on its two stars Curtis and Lohan who do such a fantastic job in their respective roles as Tess and Anna. Their characters are well established before the switch and we get a peek inside each of their lives; at school Anna is unfairly targeted for detention while Tess juggles a relationship finances and an extremely busy career. But the show really begins when the switch is on and Curtis and Lohan get to flex their physical comedy muscles. Curtis (Halloween: Resurrection) for example must capture Anna’s quirks and mannerisms and the seasoned actress successfully convinces us that a 15-year-old girl embodies her 41-year-old frame: she slouches a bit when she walks sits down ungracefully talks really fast and slams her bedroom door a lot. Of course like any teen Anna can’t resist but give her mom a bit of an edge with a fresh choppy hairdo and trades in her dowdy business suits for a flirty Diane von Furstenberg dress. Lohan (The Parent Trap) meanwhile acts credibly like a middle-aged adult trapped in a pubescent body; she is confident articulate and as someone with a Ph.D is not afraid to show off her brain. But as the adult Tess is a little more respectful of her temporary stay in her daughter’s body–she ties her long multicolored hair back to show off her “pretty face.”
Director Mark S. Waters who made his directorial debut six years ago with House of Yes bounces back from his schlocky 2001 comedy Head Over Heels. Working from Heather Hach and Leslie Dixon‘s screenplay Waters manages to salvage the ’70s movie’s premise but strips away the dated elements (Tess has a career this time instead of being a housewife whose job is doing laundry); its newfound sensibility is what makes this movie so appealing. Both Tess and Anna are kind and sympathetic characters but in a modern world of cell phones and BlackBerries they are too preoccupied with their own lives to connect with one another which is why the switch is exactly what they need. But while much of the film chronicles the crazy adventures and experiences the two characters have in each other’s bodies there are also some very moving moments as Tess and Anna realize that in order to change back into themselves they must each carry out a selfless act of love. The climax is a tearjerker but the sap is bearable because you care about the characters and actually want them to bond in that mother-daughter way. The film does wrap up in a cheery too-quick Hollywood ending but the great performances and endearing storyline make up for any of its shortcomings.