Reviewed by: Brian Nigro
There’s a good reason why “The Parent Trap,” a remake of the 1961 Disney classic, is better than the original: Like most Disney movies of that era, the original featured a British actress (then-unknown Hayley Mills) that may or may not appeal to American kids. Watching most of the now-remade Disney films such as “The Parent Trap” and “Escape From Witch Mountain”, I always thought it was rather curious that all the children spoke with British accents and were so alarmingly well-behaved and polite (i.e., are they really having fun or is it just because it’s G-rated?) Imagine the surprise audiences must be getting with “The Parent Trap” new and improved, which openly satirizes that sentiment.
For those too young to know the plot, “The Parent Trap” is a switching-places comedy about two twins (Lindsay Lohan) who meet at summer camp and upon discovering they’re sisters, set out to reunite their separated parents (Dennis Quaid and NATASHA RICHARDSON.) Mom and dad are living miles away, across the Atlantic, and the twins return after camp to the opposite parent they’ve never seen before. This is not a great movie, as it feels very, very commercial; and yet, it is clean enough to recommend for Christian families—and all the more entertaining with the familiarity (but beware of the 9 instances of profanity).
The twins' parents (background of the story) split custody of the twins—so, Annie lives with her mom, a fashion designer in England and Halle, a not-quite teenybopper, lives with her dad in a vineyard in Northern California. After camp, however, it’s a different story; Halle’s dad’s housekeeper (LISA ANN WALTER) suspects that she’s not Halle, and so does the dog. Meanwhile, Annie’s living it up in London with Mom.
The twins' fun comes to a screeching halt when Annie learns Halle’s dad—their dad—is engaged to be married to a not-so-nice publicist (ELAINE HENDRIX). This “other woman” scenario will likely fly over kids' heads, though it’s an all-too-common flashing lightbulb these days (as in the non-comedic “Twister” and “Deep Impact”, to cite the obvious examples) that no, she won’t steal Dad away from Mom. Which is to say, the underlying message to Christian families is: “Divorce is bad, staying together is good.”
Perhaps the most striking difference with “The Parent Trap” remake—which fortunately doesn’t apply to the original—is just how commercial it is. Nearly every scene is punctuated with songs we’ve all heard before from stock soundtracks that other major movies will likely use, too. It’s really annoying at times. Then again, this movie makes no claim to be original, so it’s a minor qualm.
Lindsay Lohan, in her debut role(s), walks away with this movie in the palm of her hand. Though Fox-TV fans will recognize Lisa Ann Walter (from several short-lived sitcoms) in a good supporting role, there’s really no one else who’s having as much fun. Natasha Richardson merely echoes funnier roles by fellow Brit Emma Thompson, and Dennis Quaid’s role is equally interchangable. But, Lindsay Lohan is definitely the rising star to watch.
“The Parent Trap” raises a lot of “What If?”-type questions about life, even for adults. It is rated PG, presumably, for the twins' antics at summer camp and the infrequent “adult situation” of the twins' dad kissing his girlfriend (plus the 9 or so instances of swearing).
Year of Release—1998