review by Gregory
Avery, 8 August 2003
I'm old! I look like the Crypt-Keeper!" exclaims Jamie Lee
Curtis as the mother who has just exchanged personalities with her
daughter in Freaky Friday, an updated remake of one of the
more well-regarded Disney films of the Seventies. But, honestly,
would ANYBODY say that Jamie Lee Curtis looked like the Crypt-Keeper
in that dodo TV series? Even in jest?
The earlier film was graced with
performances by Barbara Harris and Jodie Foster in the leads. Here,
Curtis plays the mother, Tess, a psychiatrist and, for the moment,
single mother, who normally has to do around ten things at once
during the course of a normal day. Lindsay Lohan, who initially has
the tortured look of Avril Lavigne (something which eases up as the
movie progresses), plays her teenaged daughter, Anna, having to
contend with school, boys, an impossible younger brother, rehearsing
with her rock band so they can get into a contest at the House of
Blues, and -- the final indignity -- losing the door to her room as
a punitive measure. As in the earlier film, mother and daughter say
the other wouldn't last a day if they changed places.
And one's initial elation at seeing
Jamie Lee Curtis in a comedy once again is soon deflated when the
realization sets in that the movie is going to be short on
inspiration and that it's going to keep repeating the same, small
set of ideas over and over -- Lohan, when she's Tess-as-Anna, acts
with high-minded rectitude in scene after scene, while Curtis, in
Anna-as-Tess mode, wags her head gawkily and says "Ew!"
several more times. It's not as if the movie does nothing, but,
rather, you'd like it to do more with what it's got. You wait to see
Tess-as-Anna witheringly deflate the dilettantish teacher (Stephen
Tobolowsky, who's perfect) in Anna's English class, who enjoys
flunking students for spite and gives pop quiz questions such as,
"Describe the character of Hamlet."; there's also the
reaction of Jake (Chad Michael Murray), a boy Anna had been earlier
trying to impress, when he sees Tess-as-Anna sabotage the test paper
submitted by a classmate who humiliated her -- he's disturbed, even
offended, by what he sees her do, which makes you realize that he's
looking for a girl who respects the same things as he does, but the
movie walks away from this and never comes back to it. Similarly,
Anna-as-Tess treating her mother's patients for a day holds a
potential that isn't even remotely explored. And why does the movie
suddenly turn creepy when Jake starts flirting with Tess-as-Anna?
He's supposed to be responding, of course, to Anna, behind Tess'
eyes, but it feels, inadvertently I hope, more like a
Benjamin-and-Mrs. Robinson type of thing. And when Tess helps Anna out at the big band performance, the
filmmakers don't even give us a good shot of Jamie Lee Curtis
playing electric guitar, like she means it, off-stage (they
apparently filmed some, but it never made it into the final film).
And not much is made of Mom about to be married to a new man,
meaning a new father in the family (even though he is played by Mark
Harmon, whose easygoing performance is one of the best things in the
picture). While there are many moments where Curtis and Lohan work
splendidly together, parts of the picture, alternately, could have
been handled more delicately, or more assuredly.
Mark Waters has previously directed
an ambitious and rather daring independent comedy about another type
of family, The House of Yes, which is worth having a look at;
whether this new movie is a step in the right direction, I don't
know. And what is the great moral lesson that Tess and Anna come
away with after their experience? They're glad to be back in their
own bodies, the end.
Jamie Lee Curtis
Chad Michael Murray
PG - Parental
Some material may
not be appropriate