Reviews since 1993: A-E F-N O-Z Posters Who We Are and Why We Do What We Do Search the Site
Now in Release
DISNEY PIXAR DVDs
IN SHORT: Freakin' funny. Jamie Lee Curtis is just as funny as she was terrified back in the days of Halloween. [Rated PG for Mild Thematic Elements and Some Language. 97 minutes]
Mary Rodgers' book was previously adapted in 1976, with Barbara Harris and Jodie Foster in the title roles. This site make no comparison to Source Material, written or filmed, so we move on.
Adult person wakes up in a kidlet's body or vice versa. It's still the old body switcheroo that Mark Twain wrote the basics of a century ago. We feel as if we've seen it done dozens of times on teevee or the big screen. Couple that dread with an August release date and all of our critic warning lights were burning out in their back of the brain sockets. Freaky Friday is a bit off the same old same old in that, in this case, it's a double swap -- mother into teen's body and teen into mom's. Waitasec ... add a crazy Chinese lady with some enchanted fortune cookies to the set-up and what have you got?
You get Cranky apologizing for walking in to a screening wearing preconceptions on his sleeve. How freakin' lovely to be wrong. In the grandest tradition of fantasy, Freaky Friday is a different kind of trip "Through the Looking Glass" -- also the title of a boring book written by Curtis' character -- with only the minor misstep of using senility, in the form of a forgetful grandfather (Harold Gould) as a laughing point. That didn't matter to the kidlets; actually it didn't matter to most of the audience we sat with. Then again, they didn't spend twenty years watching a loved one fade. But that's a side product of the baggage we carried into the theater. So, in keeping with that apologetic status, we'll continue our dissection of Freaky Friday with ruminations about the left side vs right side of the brain. Of Creativity vs. Order. And Youth vs. Maturity. In short, Anna vs. Tess.
On the left side, as strange as it may read, is Anna Coleman (Lindsay Lohan). Fifteen going on, well, eighteen. A younger brother harassing her always gets away with it. A former school friend -- Stacey Hinkhouse (Julie Gonzalo) making her life miserable. An English teacher (Stephen Toblolowsky) flunking her for no good reason at all. More important, she's got a mean set of chops on lead guitar for Pink Slip, a garage band which just got an audition at House of Blues tomorrow which would be so rockin' since maybe just maybe the utterly perfect Jake (Chad Michael Murray) might notice she's alive and maybe, like, talk to her. Anna's music is her life. It's loud and it's rocking and if the audition weren't the same night as the big wedding rehearsal dinner for her wet blanket mom and creepy boyfriend there would be no problem. But there is. Maybe she can get mom to let her out of the thing because, like it's her life . . .
Deep breath. And, relax.
On the right side is Dr. Tess Coleman (Jamie Lee Curtis). Psychologist. Author of the book we mentioned above whose subtitle, "Senescence in Retrograde" suggests some kind of treatment for the malady. It also suggests that the book is an absolute snoozer. Still, it brought her together with the quite wonderful Ryan (Mark Harmon), soon to be her second husband. Tess' young son Harry (Ryan Malgarini) is, to her, an angel. Her daughter Anna just doesn't get all that mom is doing for her and the family. Tess must be firm and yet loving and if Anna wants to bury her head in heavy metal music with the band in the garage, there's always a circuit breaker to be broken at six o'clock to shut down the band and restore some kind of normalcy.
Grownups never understand. A final, pre-rehearsal family night out at the House Of Chang restaurant leads to a total meltdown in mother-daughter relations. One not totally unlike that of the relationship of the restaurant's management, Pei-Pei (Rosalind Chao) and her mother (Lucille Soong). The latter mom sneaks some magical fortune cookies to the sparring Occidentals and when they wake up, the world is not the same as it was when they took their forty winks. The only way out, they will be told, is to perform a pair of selfless acts for each other and, given that neither are particularly happy with the other's behavior, that probably isn't going to happen in less than forty eight hours.
Here, Freaky Friday achieves comedic lift off, with Jamie Lee Curtis doing for non-slapstick physical comedy what few can. She gets physical but she doesn't do anything stupid to get laughs. Both characters are, given the established background, restricted from the "let's behave like a kid/ adult" impersonation that would come with a junk flick. Both characters already know how (they) perceive the behavior of the other and, due to circumstances beyond their control, must mimic those perceptions. In simpler words, mom must behave in the manner she thinks her daughter behaves, which gets in the way when she comes face to face with portions of her daughter's life -- the hunky Jake -- that she knows nothing about.
Add to that the pressure of the impending wedding and things get desperately funny. The kidlets in our audience got sucked in early in the game. We, old fart that we are, took a while longer. Jamie Lee Curtis, her 40-something body bouncing on a bed throwing a teenaged hissy fit, was enough to put us down for the count. Even better, there's nothing in Freaky Friday that should concern parents, though the kidlets may wish to heaven that their folks had just dropped 'em off, instead of insisting on a family night out. Insist.
On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Ten Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to Freaky Friday, he would have paid . . .
Like a snowball going down a snow covered mountain, Freaky Friday just gets bigger and funnier and no amount of crankiness will stand up to it.
The Cranky Critic website is Copyright © 1995 - 2017 by Chuck Schwartz. Articles by Paul Fischer are Copyright © 1999 - 2006 Paul Fischer. All images, unless otherwise noted, are property of,©, ®, ™ their respective studios and are used by permission. All Rights Reserved. Not to be used or copied for any commercial purpose. Academy Award™(s) and Oscar®(s) are registered trademarks and service marks of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.