Movie Review

The Parent Trap

Reviewed by: Brian Nigro
CONTRIBUTOR

Better than Average
Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
Families
Genre:
Comedy
Length:
110 min.
PG

Starring: Dennis Quaid, Natasha Richardson, Lindsay Lohan / Director: Nancy Meyers / Released by: Walt Disney Pictures

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

Viewer Comments
I found this movie extremely enjoyable! I loved the original and assumed this would not be nearly as good, but I was surprised. I especially enjoyed the added attraction between the 2 butlers/housekeepers. Overall, a great film!
—Vanesa, age 14
I completely enjoyed the updated Parent Trap movie, I felt it was a great improvement over the original. In many ways this was a superior film. In the original there was a good deal of physical abuse that I suppose was acceptable for that time. Several slapping scenes, and the mother socking the father. I felt that the mother in the new movie drinking to excess was understandable since she was under stress seeing her ex, and it was explained that she never had more than one glass of wine at a time in her life. There were many tender moments in the new Parent Trap that made you believe that although long separated the parents still cared and loved their long lost child. The music added to the plot and gave it an upbeat feeling.
—Jan Sprik, age 44
This version was even cornier than the original (which I loved), but in all was a decent family movie. My daughter (nearly 8) and I both laughed, but not at the same things. We go to the movies with the understanding that they are not made from a Christian perspective and they are fantasy. Therefore, we’re able to sit and enjoy some (mindless?) entertainment without being bothered that a woman is set afloat in her sleep, or that a child tastes wine, or even that parents reunite after a decade. Yes, it would be great if every major producer/director/actor got saved… but I’m not staying home waiting for that to happen. Lighten up and enjoy the movies!
—Cheryl, age 39
I usually boycott remakes of films that are classics as the 1961 film starying Halley Mills, “The Parent Trap” was. However, when I saw that Lindsay Lohan was playing both of the twins, I decided to go ahead and see the film. As much as I loved the original, this remake is much better! The casting could not have been better, it was done in good taste, and the acting by Lindsay was outstanding! It is a fantastic film, good for all ages, and christian families… just good ’ol family fun!
—Christopher, age 29
For the record: ScreenIt counted the Lord’s name ten times times, but absolutely no swearing and four-letter words. Lying and misrepresenting a film’s content is a violation of the Eighth Commandment. I stand by the review.
—Brian N., age 25
a cute film
I did not choose to see Parent Trap. Initially, we went to see Mulan, which was sold out. Fortumately, it was a choice I was very happy about later. The movie was a joy. No profanity. And a strong overall message about the importance of keeping marriages together. And good, clean tasteful fun. I went with my two youngest daughters (six and 2 1/2). The six year old loved it. The 2½ year old got a bit skwirmy by about the last hour. It was a cute movie that has some real funny and touching scenes, but none that really compromised my faith. Now a days, you just don’t know what to expect when you see a movie cold like I did. I’m just thankful that the surprize was a good one.
—Bill Manassero
filled with anti-Christian material
…This is a movie that not only has profanity it also has gambling, drunkenness, lying, cruel practical joking, and nudity. Let me explain: The twins played poker so good that they took the whole camp for its money. When the twins played against each other (before they know they where sisters) they bet along with a lot of money and goods, that the loser would jump in the lake naked. This scene showed the silhouette of the naked 11 year olds body. One of the girls was very good at wine tasting and tasted some wine with her mothers approval. Later the mother gets sloppy drunk on a airplane trip before she goes and sees her ex-husband which the girls lied and said he was expecting to see her. Here is only one of the practical jokes. The twins put their fathers girlfriend in the lake will she was sleeping. This was funny on the movie screen, but in real life this is a scenario for a drowning. We should not go see movies just because it is the cleanest movie Hollywood has put out in a long while. We Have been so desensitized by TV, Hollywood, and the media that we are starting to compare content of movies with the content of other movies. Instead we need to compare the content of movies with the Bible. Let Jesus say if we should see them or not. When we see a movie we need to think what would Jesus think of this movie? Would Jesus walk out on this one. Would Jesus recommend this movie to others. Lets get to the place where we follow God in all things including going to movies.
—Sam McNear, age 28
“a film for the entire family”
This movie is well made and Lindsey Lohan is excellant. Natasha and Dennis were very good as well, my whole family enjoyed it very much. However, as usual Disney always has to try to make it more 90's. Stop. It does not make it better, but the new computer graphics ability make it flow much more cleanly and the acting is very good. Too much looseness of course, though nothing is seen, just suggested. Overall, it is a movie for the entire family, though little boys might get bored.
—Mike McCann, age 46
some adult situations
I loved the first Parent Trap when I was a kid. And was sorry that there was no singing with the twins (although they did play some of the “lets get together” song). I took my 4 kids (ages 7,8,9 and 10) They all laughed and had a good time at the movie. I am not sure how much of the plot they really understood. But I was relieved to sit in the theater and enjoy the movie. I was very pleased when the father took his daughters and his girlfriend on a camping trip that the girlfriend slept in her own tent. There was a scene when the Annie (while pretending to be Halle) asked the girlfriend about her intentions with her father and said something like, “you know it isn’t all about sex.” I didn’t think that line was necessary, but it seemed as if my kids didn’t even hear it. All in all it was a cute movie that the kids asked if we could buy when it comes out in video.
—Debi, age 34
a drunk scene / message of divorce as “bad”
I didn’t mind the “retro” music, I think that is how Disney attempted to add something of interest to my generation. However, there is a poker game the girls play which could have easily been any other game for the same effect. The use of poker seemed to be an attempt to raise the age of the humor, but it fell flat. There was quite a bit of wine consumed, and a scene where Natasha Richardson’s character (Mom) arrives to face her “ex” inebriated. Fortunately, the drunken scene is not carried very far. There were several places where the Lord’s name was used in vain, and instead of prayer, the girls cross their fingers. But the prevailing message to everyone, that divorce negatively affects everyone involved, is very well developed. Also I appreciated that the girls' are punished for their revenge antics (both on each other and later the fiancee). I found the casting excellent, and besides Lindsay, I really enjoyed Lisa Ann Walter’s nanny/housekeeper role. Even though I’ve seen the original several times and didn’t have much hope for the remake, I found it compelling, tasteful for the most part, and a lot of fun for ages 6 and older.
—Beverly Nault, age 41
good soundtrack
I didn’t find the soundtrack annoying at all. If anything, I thought it added to our enjoyment of the movie. I took my two daughters (ages 8 yrs and 9 yrs) and we all enjoyed it a great deal.
—Janell Stedman
the remake was even better
I was not really looking forward to seeing “The Parent Trap.” I am a really big Hayley Mills fan, and the idea of a “Parent Trap” without her drove me crazy. I grimaced every time I saw the previews. I hate to say it, but—I like the remake better!! I laughed, I cried… Lindsay Lohan is adorable! Elaine Hendrix is very, very good at being bad. Overall, it was a great movie, well worth the money to see.
—Melissa, age 15
I thought The Parent Trap was a great family friend. Lindsay Lohan is a great young new actress, she has a great spirit and a great sense of humor, I enjoyed going and I definitley thought it was better than the first one.
—Angel, age 13
I thought the parent trap was cute. But I didn’t like some of the scenes with him and his fiance. Other than those kissing scenes I thought it was a pretty cute familly movie. I recommend it to all ages.
—Melissa, age 12
beware of the profanity
[The profanity] was a frequent part of the vocabulary of the young characters as well as the older ones. I feel that this is very unfortunate, since the rest of the movie is quite clean and enjoyable. However, I do not think that this use of “God’s name in vain” can be ignored by the Christian viewer. I am disappointed in the review of this film by Christian Spotlight on the Movies. My husband and I would not have gone to see this film had we known that it contained this type of language throughout. Please be advised.
—Lynelle Ellis, age 30