Case Number 03830


Disney // 2003 // 97 Minutes // Rated PG
Reviewed by Judge Bill Treadway (Retired) // January 13th, 2004

The Charge

Every teenager's nightmare...turning into her mother.

Opening Statement

After striking box office gold with remakes of The Parent Trap, 101 Dalmatians, and Flubber, Disney turns to another remake of a film from their past: Freaky Friday.

The burning question remains: is this a worthwhile remake or just a blatant attempt to milk more money from an increasingly deflating teat?

The answer when we come back.

Facts of the Case

Dr. Tess Coleman (Jamie Lee Curtis) has her hands full. She's a semi-famous psychologist who has a new book in stores. Patients call her on her cell phone at the strangest times. Her wedding to Ryan (Mark Harmon) is scheduled for the weekend. Plus she has to find time to raise two kids.

Her daughter Anna (Lindsay Lohan) has problems of her own. Her younger brother Harry (Ryan Malgarini) is a major pain in the ass. English teacher Mr. Bates seems to flunk her for very suspect reasons. Her garage band has a crucial audition the same night as her mom's wedding rehearsal dinner.

Mother and daughter aren't the best of friends. In fact, their relationship is more hate than love. After a particularly bitter fight in a Chinese restaurant, an old lady gives them a pair of fortune cookies. But these aren't any ordinary fortune cookies...
By the next morning, Tess and Anna discover that they have "traded spaces." They are each in the other's body until the fortune comes true. Will they unscramble themselves before Tess' wedding? Will they manage to forgive each other and finally bond?

Sorry, I'm not an answering service. You'll have to discover the answers for yourself.

The Evidence

Body changing movies are nothing new. They were in vogue in the late 1980s with titles such as Like Father Like Son, 18 Again!, Big, and Vice Versa. Not all of them were successful. It is a reliable premise. In Hollywood, where original ideas are growing scarcer by the second, a reliable premise is worth its weight in gold.

I still remember the original Freaky Friday. It wasn't a very enjoyable movie. The 1976 production, directed by Gary Nelson and starring Barbara Harris and Jodie Foster, was unremarkable. That two of the most dynamic actresses then working turned in surprisingly stiff performances was a major shocker, as was the blatant sexism (particularly the character played by John Astin). It's very much mired in the mid-'70s period.

I can safely say that the 2003 remake is a superior film. Unlike Flubber, which was an awful updating of a classic, writers Heather Hach and Leslie Dixon have written a smart, balanced screenplay. The best aspect of the script is that it isn't stuck in any decade. By avoiding the temptation to place Freaky Friday into a set time period, the film has a great chance to remain fresh and timeless. The dialogue is very funny but it is also smart and witty, something sorely lacking in many modern screenplays. Also working in their favor is that they know how to create three-dimensional characters the audience can care about. Director Mark Waters maintains a breezy tone, his work reminiscent of the best Billy Wilder comedies.

If I have one complaint about the film, it's with the ending. It's your typical happy ending. I'm not complaining about the fact that it's a happy ending. This particular story has to end happily. However, the final moments miss out on a twist that could have made for a memorable closing moment. Check the alternate endings for more details.

It's been 25 years since Jamie Lee Curtis made her film debut in Halloween. Since then, her film work has been steady but uneven; some films were good (Love Letters, Trading Places) and others have been pretty bad (Virus, which Jamie Lee herself has called "a piece of s**t" in her IMDb profile). This is her comeback, giving us evidence that she is a very good actress, despite the numerous flops. Unlike Barbara Harris, who pretty much phoned the performance in, Curtis actually gives us both personalities in convincing and brilliant fashion.

Every bit her equal is Lindsay Lohan, a Disney veteran since the age of 11. Still only 17, she has amassed a small but reliable body of film work that is notable for its variety and often high quality. Lohan is a natural beauty, but unlike many others, she has talent, which will go a long way in the future. It's amazing that she can keep up with an actress half her age (something Jodie Foster couldn't do in the original, but considering her previous picture was Taxi Driver, maybe she was exhausted. That's another review.). Her performance is one of many tones and textures and it's a marvel to see her do such a good job.

Side Note: Much has been made of a feud with Lohan and Hilary Duff. Supposedly over that no-talent Aaron Carter (and instigated by the girls' respective mothers), will Disney have to choose between them down the road? I think the choice is obvious. Lindsay Lohan has the most potential to cross over into adult roles.

Disney offers a choice of either an 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer or a cruddy pan-and-scan affair. Parents: choose the widescreen version. Director Mark Waters makes the most of the widescreen frame, so watching it in full screen is a big mistake. As I have said before, it is never too early to teach our kids about proper aspect ratio. As for the transfer, it is the usual good effort. It looks terrific, but since it's a film that is only five months old, that is to be expected. Minimal defects (a speck or two here and there) are present. The color scheme is sharp but not overwhelming (typical of modern color photography) and there is only the very slightest edge enhancement to be found. Overall, Disney can be proud of this transfer.

Audio is equally good. Only one option is offered: Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround sound in English. Since there are several songs in the picture, it is only appropriate to offer a great sound mix. They delivered. Dialogue is easy to hear and understand, a major plus. No tape hiss is present, but that's a problem that is virtually non-existent in the digital recording world. Again, good work Disney!

The Rebuttal Witnesses

As with other live action Disney discs not named 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, extras leave a lot to be desired.

"Backstage Pass with Lindsay Lohan" is a short featurette that previously appeared on the Disney Channel during the film's theatrical run. It's your standard promotional piece, no better or worse. However, it is great to see a young teenage actress who can actually correlate an intelligent thought.

Next up is one deleted scene and three alternate endings. You have the option of watching these with or without director Mark Waters' introductions. The deleted scene is a rarity: one that should have been included in the final cut. It's satisfying and funny; audiences would have cheered. One alternate ending would have made a satisfying conclusion to the film, more than what we have currently. The others aren't anything special, in particular the third ending (of which only the most refined viewers will notice any difference).

"Freaky Bloopers" is the usual laughless blooper reel. God, how I am tired of these.

"Freaky Jams" are two music videos. Lillix performs "What I Like About You" while the Halo Friendlies do "Me vs the World." Neither is particularly good and you can safely skip these.

I'm surprised they didn't include the Lindsay Lohan music video that received major airplay on the Disney Channel. Why not push a single from your star?

Trailers for Hidalgo, Spy Kids 3-D, The Lion King 1 1/2, and the upcoming Alice in Wonderland and Pocahontas Special Edition DVDs are included. What? No theatrical trailer for our film? I could swear I didn't know if I was watching a Disney disc or a Columbia disc.

And would it have killed them to give us the original Freaky Friday on a separate disc?

Closing Statement

This is wonderful family entertainment. Children will love the obvious jokes and slapstick. Adults will appreciate the acting and storytelling. The retail price is a bit steep at $29.99, so if you're unsure, rent it first. You'll surely want to own it after that.

The Verdict

Everyone is free to go, but Disney is once again ordered to go to Extras 101 and learn how to prepare some extra content worth seeing.

Review content copyright © 2004 Bill Treadway; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2016 HipClick Designs LLC

Scales of Justice
Video: 96
Audio: 97
Extras: 30
Acting: 99
Story: 96
Judgment: 95

Perp Profile
Studio: Disney
Video Formats:
* 1.85:1 Anamorphic
* Full Frame

Audio Formats:
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)

* None

Running Time: 97 Minutes
Release Year: 2003
MPAA Rating: Rated PG

Distinguishing Marks
* "Backstage Pass with Lindsay Lohan" Featurette
* Deleted Scene
* Three Alternate Endings
* Blooper Reel
* Music Videos
* Trailers

* IMDb

* Official Site