Freaky Friday

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Freaky Friday

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A sinking feeling sets in during the opening credits to Freaky Friday, when the agreeable tones of The Turtles' song "Happy Together" give way to a grating lite-punk version of same, with the onscreen action suddenly lurching into fast motion. In keeping with the new tradition of Disney live-action comedies, the message is dispiritingly clear: This remake will be just like the 1976 version, only spazzier. It doesn't help that the body-switchers are equally high-strung, with mother Jamie Lee Curtis attached to her headset cell phone (the laziest possible movie shorthand for parental or spousal negligence) and daughter Lindsay Lohan wrapped up in Avril-esque rock rebellion. Yet the bad first impression miraculously fades away by the second reel, as the irresistible high-concept premise kicks in and the early hyperactivity gets channeled into an efficient, increasingly assured comic energy. Rather than updating the original for the Ritalin generation, director Mark S. Waters (The House Of Yes) settles for a throwback to old-fashioned family entertainment–something closer to the soul-swapping comedies of the late '80s (18 Again!, Vice Versa), only funny. (Add stars Curtis and Mark Harmon, and it's almost like going back in a time machine.) As in most Disney entertainment, there's too much learning and loving, but the castor oil goes down easier in the middle section, when the sniping mother-daughter pair trades places, each doing a snotty approximation of the other. Still a gifted comedienne after years in commercial purgatory, Curtis ably resuscitates the clichéd role of a psychiatrist with out-of-control children, playing a widow who's preparing to remarry a sensitive man (Harmon) against her daughter's wishes. On the night before the rehearsal dinner, Curtis and Lohan ingest a magic fortune cookie at a Chinese restaurant and wake up the next morning with flip-flopped identities. Before the curse can be lifted, they experience the world through each other's eyes, with the uptight Curtis (as Lohan) spending a feckless day in high school and Lohan (as Curtis) counseling her mother's intensely neurotic patients. Freaky Friday mines a lot of laughs from common misapprehensions adults have about adolescent life, with fun bits of observation about schoolwork, dating, and other practices where kids have to bend the rules in order to survive. The reversal also allows Curtis to embody a petulant teenager, free to torture Lohan's tattletale younger brother and alter the wedding plans, all the while shrinking from her fiancé's advances. Once the mother-daughter foes soften up and come to an understanding, the film threatens to collapse just like many other Disney films, which lack the patience and conviction to earn their sentimentality. But by that point, Freaky Friday has summoned enough good will to get away with it.

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