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Dan Heller's Movie Review of "Freaky Friday"


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Jamie Lee Curtis, Lindsay Lohan
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Included in what seems to be an ongoing series of comedic dramas featuring rising teen stars is "Freaky Friday". So far, such films in this summer of 2003 have been a mixed bag, but this one rises unexpectedly towards the top. While it starts slowly, with a formulaic an overly-acted and simplistically-scripted introduction, the film gradually solidifies into a solid piece, bringing together the story, characters, humor and human interest that can appeal to many. A tough job, since the genre rarely appeals to those outside of the demographic.

This remake from the 1976 version that starred Jodi Foster has been updated to today's fashion, music, and cultural and social trends. Here, Jamie Lee Curtis plays Tess Coleman, a single mother of a 15-year old daughter, Annabelle (played by up-and-coming teen star, Lindsay Lohan), and a younger brother, whose role is vastly underutilized. Tess and
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Jamie Lee Curtis, Lindsay Lohan
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Annabelle have the typical mother-daughter issues that resonate with today's families, and their constant arguments repeatedly drive home the premise that parents minimize their kids' interests, and kids don't appreciate their parents. During one such public argument in a Chinese restaurant, the elderly woman-owner decides to help them by casting a spell with the aid of magic fortune cookies: the mind of the mother is in the daughter's body, and the daughter occupies her mom's body. Not aware of how they can switch back, they are forced to live each others' lives, pretending to be their counterpart, so as to take care of timely and urgent business. After a series of comedic role-reversal interplays, they eventually learn to appreciate the other, breaking the spell, and everyone lives happily ever after.

Several aspects of the movie caught me pleasantly by surprise. First, the straightforward acting of the major players felt genuine and authentic. Unlike the way director Amy Heckerling treats her subjects,
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Lindsay Lohan
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where her gift for satirically poking fun at, while still respectfully portraying, America's youth is deeper and more sympathetic, first-time screenwriter Heather Hach plays it safe. Girls are typical girls, boys are typical boys, and the issues they have are those we're all familiar with. Hech's work, which was fine, could have taken more chances with deeper, more profound issues that kids and parents are faced with. Also, unlike Heckerling's treatment of minor characters, who are charismatic and support the main characters well, Hech's secondary characters, such as Annabelle's little brother Harry, and Tess' fiancÚ, Ryan (a.k.a. "dude"), are two-dimensional and don't contribute much more than comedic relief. It's not that this diminished from the film's qualities, it was just missed opportunities for a better work.

Another aspect I liked about "Freaky Friday" was director Mark Water's unintentional but acute documentary-slash-commentary take on the 21st century teenager. While the film feels current and refreshing now, seeing it again in ten years will be as entertaining as it is to see the 1976 version today. (I can see the snickers now.)

If you're looking for a fun film that touches the heart and the funny bone, especially if you're in your teenage years, or a parent of one who is, "Freaky Friday" is worthwhile. It's not for everyone, as it does have its immature flavor to it, one that isn't appreciated by all adults. But, it's a good bet all the same. You can find this movie on the internet database here: http://us.imdb.com/Title?0322330

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