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With: Jamie Lee Curtis, Lindsay Lohan, Mark Harmon, Chad Murray
Written by: Leslie Dixon, Heather Hach, based on the novel by Mary Rodgers
Directed by: Mark S. Waters
MPAA Rating: PG for mild thematic elements and some language
Running Time: 97
Date: 08/04/2003

Freaky Friday (2003)

2 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Good 'Friday'

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Mothers and daughters communicate -- or fail to communicate -- in theirown unique ways. In the upcoming film Thirteen, a teenage girl's lifegoes awry and a mother struggles to understand how. The same thingessentially happens in Freaky Friday, but this time we're treated to amuch easier and much happier solution.

Based on the Mary Rodgers novel as well as the 1976 Disney film starring Barbara Harris and Jodie Foster, this new version is equally harmless and equally amiable for about the same reasons. The movie cooks up the usual slapsticky set pieces shown ad nauseum in the trailer, but the real fun comes when two talented actors get to impersonate each other. (It's like John Woo's Face/Off for mothers and daughters.)

Jamie Lee Curtis stars as Tess Coleman, a high-strung mother who simultaneously juggles her hectic job as a shrink and prepares for her impending wedding to Ryan (Mark Harmon). She has a purse full of beeping and buzzing pagers and cell phones.

At the same time, she has a temperamental teenager, Annabell Coleman (Lindsay Lohan) dealing with various problems at school, a possible new boyfriend (Chad Murray) and a pretty cool little after-school garage band (influenced by the Hives and the Donnas).

Of course, Tess disapproves of the band and the boyfriend and Annabell disapproves of her new stepfather. Mother and daughter fight constantly, even when they go out to Chinese dinner. The restaurant's elderly proprietor (Lucille Soong) gives them special fortune cookies, and when they wake up the next morning, they've switched bodies.

Now, it's probably a little insulting that Chinese "magic" changed the girls and that making the fortune come true will change them back, but Freaky Friday is so lightweight that we could easily spend more energy worrying about it than the filmmakers did putting this movie together.

The big conflict comes when Annabell's band is invited to enter a contest during her mother's rehearsal dinner. And, of course, Annabell (really Tess) is incapable of playing the guitar, and Tess (really Annabell) can't really make any marriage vows to her mother's boyfriend.

The movie doesn't bother really delving into how mothers and daughters relate. The movie's basic message is that mom should "lighten up" and that daughter should "think about others." For example, while occupying Annabell's body, Tess manages to solve one or two of her ongoing problems at school in less than a day.

No, the real fun comes when Tess wanders into a caf´┐Ż and bumps into Annabell's almost-new boyfriend Jake. Remembering that Annabell is inside Tess' body, we watch the two of them bond over music and make a connection. Curtis plays the scene straight; her energy and exuberance are infectious. Jake gazes at her the way other generations of teenagers gazed at her in films like Halloween, Trading Places, A Fish Called Wanda and True Lies.

Curtis nails another scene when she shows up to aid her daughter (really her mother) during the concert. She unplugs Annabell's (really Tess') guitar and plays the real guitar solo from backstage. Watching Curtis rock out is very nearly worth the price of admission.

I don't want to sell Lohan short; she's good too, but she sometimes oversells things, acting too much like an adult as opposed to an adult pretending to be a teenager. Curtis is also guilty of this, vice versa, for fleeting moments, but she has the experience to smooth it over.

Perhaps it's easier to blame director Mark S. Waters, whose last film was the dreadful Freddie Prinze Jr. comedy Head Over Heels. More than once in Freaky Friday Waters loops in dialogue for characters whose backs are turned toward the camera, and their body movements do not match the words. It's only a mediocre job of filmmaking, and it wouldn't surprise me if he lacked the skills to really challenge his actors.

Even so, Freaky Friday is not an entirely unpleasant family-friendly comedy. If families have seen Finding Nemo too many times and Whale Rider has not yet come to a theater near you, Freaky Friday makes a perfectly good substitute.

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