Sunday, August 17, 2008


Let me just play my cards, right now. On a lazy Sunday morning I laying on the couch watching something called “the family channel” I became completely absorbed watching 1998 remake of Disney 1961 sorta-classic The Parent Trap

Let me also admit, it wasn’t the first time I saw it. I went and saw it when it first came out, ten years ago in a prison cell -like movie theater at The Beverly Center Mall on a movie screen that appeared to be a large screen TV

I was moved by it then. And even with this family channel berating me with commercials (a 127 minute movie in a three hour slot), I might of got even more teary eyed this time around.

Yeah, yeah you know the deal. Two lost lost identical twin little girls run into each other at summer camp, realize they are related and then switch places in an effort to get  their estranged parents back together. 

Of course you have to buy into the concept that a seemingly wonderful man and woman would break up and each take a kid and never speak of the other half of the family again.

Maybe shitty parenting was less questionable in the Rat Pack era. But it feels incredibly cruel in our kiddie indulgent America of today.

That said and hopefully if ignored, buying into it becomes easy because of the remarkably charming performance of the then eleven-year old Lindsay Lohan. Yes that’s right, before she became a drunken mess of a teenage and young adult, she was a very watchable little actress. 

Little Lindsey was “discovered” for the Parent Trap. And six years later she did the fairly smart teen comedy Mean Girls. Freeing her briefly from the Jodie Foster-wannabe ghetto of Disney remakes including Freaky Friday and The Love Bug

But since her white-trash behavior and penchant for bikinis and the then, paparazzi admiration of her newly formed bosom got her off track from being taken serious as a talent. 

But like, say Jennifer Lopez before her, before becoming JLO she was an actress who showed enormous promise before her enormous... ego became the story.

In The Parent Trap, playing northern California Hallie and the British raised Annie it's not that Lohan shows some deep well of Stanislavsky training. But she does have a face and personality the camera loves. And other then a feeble accent and hair style shifting, the twin characters are pretty interchangeable. No, Lohan’s charm is her freckled face expressions of pain and her raspy voice (she musta started smoking a pack a day at around eight-years-old). 

The original version was kinda a rip-off of The Patty Duke Show. It helped cement little Hayley Mills as Disney’s reigning queen of the sixties. Millstwins, who in retrospect seemed at least a few years older and as an actress she showed the potential to one day play, maybe Shakespeare’s Ophelia or Juliet . However it was always clear she was some kinda prodigy, she was not at all convincing as a real kid.

About as much as possible for a kid-actor in today's too cleverly written children roles, Lohan does ring true, even when the movie is over the top. 

And though Act One: Their Meeting and Act Three: The Trap all are rung a little too tight in search of comedy.  It’s Act Two: Parent and Child Reunion that got to me. 

As each girl gets to know her parent for the first time, the movie takes it’s time. And when dealing with the American daughter with her English mother (Natasha Richardson) the movie even briefly plays it subtle and doesn’t hit us over the head. 

There is a small moment  when the little girl, lingers looking at the things on her  mother’s dresser, her perfume bottles and makeup, a close-up of the feminine glass pieces of her lamp, the opening chords to Here Comes The Sun play, and then back to Lohan’s face fascinated with the dainty clutter of a woman’s world she had never been exposed to. 

The scene mother-fucking nailed me. It was so sweet. And the tears were it evoked were earned, not forced on me. 

Dennis Quaid’s pretty-boy charm works perfectly as the girl’s father and he more the adequately steps into the role memorably played by the great Brian Keith

Richardson is fine as the mother, maybe less plucky then Maureen O'Hara was, but believable in the teen girl dream-job world as a wedding gown designer.

Elaine Hendrix really shines as Quaid’s creepy young love interest and foil to the twins.

The then, enormously successful screenwriter Nancy Meyer making her directing debut really provides the relationships with a subtly satisfying arc. It’s too bad her career would advance to hitting us over the head to feel emotions with the clunkers (and wildly popular) crap What Women Want, the way overrated Something's Gotta Give and the forgettable The Holiday.

Not that I'm gonna run out and rent say, Nim's Island (though it does look kinda watchable), but what can I say? As far as remakes go... it’s much better the whatever next week’s latest horror remake on DVD will be. 


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