For Tess (Jamie Lee Curtis) and her daughter Anna (Lindsay Lohan, "The Parent Trap"), life is one big drama. While Tess is trying to juggle her career, another child (Ryan Malgarini) and her impending nuptials to her fiancee, Ryan (Mark Harmon), Anna is failing in school, finding her rock band on the cusp of possible stardom and falling for a hunky classmate (Chad Murray, "Gilmore Girls"). Anna and Tess share a typical mother and teen daughter relationship, and when spied during an argument, a Chinese restaurant employee gives them magical fortune cookies that switch their bodies. Forced to deal with each other's wildly divergent lives, Anna and Tess race to figure out how to return to their normal bodies on the eve of Tess' wedding.
I've made it no secret how I feel about Disney strip-mining their catalog for remakes; it's a lazy practice from a company that could do so much more good if they wanted to try. However, I'm forced to hold back my usual criticisms when the end product turns out to be actually pretty darn good. "Freaky Friday" (IMDb listing) is the latest Disney landmark to get a make over, replacing the much-beloved Barbara Harris/Jodie Foster film from 1976. Unlike 1998's "The Parent Trap," which didn't strain too far to update the proceedings, the new "Friday" is ripe with modernization. Society has changed since the days of the one-parent income and bell-bottom jeans, and screenwriters Heather Hatch and Leslie Dixon (working off the Mary Rodgers book) wisely update the action to include more contemporary situations, including Anna's panic over her rock band's audition, and Tess having to deal with her job and single parent household. Director Mark Waters ("The House of Yes") handles these new ripples in the text with ease, making a film that's hip enough to allow teens to refrain from rolling their eyes, but yet familiar enough not to alienate adult fans of the original. Nothing could touch the Foster/Harris magic, yet the new "Friday" is a nice return to the material, without directly competing with the classic 1976 film.
The crucial factor to "Friday" is the chemistry between the two stars. In this "Friday," Jamie Lee Curtis and Lindsay Lohan simply knock their parts out of the park. Seventeen-year-old Lohan has the expertise behind her, after having convinced the world she was a set of twins in the "Parent Trap" remake. An absurdly confident teen actress, Lohan rises to the occasion masterfully, playing both a frustrated teen with unusual aggression as well as capturing the prim, mature aspects of the adult world. While I could do without another teen actress taking a stab at pop stardom (Lohan's musical chops are on display during the end credits), she is a remarkable young talent that matches Curtis perfectly. I expect great things from her to come.
Easily, Jamie Lee Curtis has the more enjoyable role. Already an accomplished comedienne, Curtis is a hoot to watch as she is inhabited by a teenager, complete with a change in style and constant disregard for those around her. Curtis has the funnier lines over Lohan's more situational comedy, and seems to be enjoying herself immensely saying things like, "ewww!" or tossing the metal horns around periodically. Curtis, who has been dormant in drab films for far too long, comes alive with the opportunity afforded to her in "Friday," and I thoroughly loved her performance.
"Freaky Friday's" secret weapon is child actor Ryan Malgarini, playing Tess' son, and Anna's loathed brother, Harry. Filled with terrific reactions at the wild occurrences within his home, Waters wisely cuts to Harry at strategic points in the film for assured laughs. This is one funny kid.
"Freaky Friday" doesn't always have laughs on its side, but it is a light, affectionately made picture that doesn't embarrass the original.
Filmfodder Grade: B