For an old warhorse, “Freaky Friday” looks darn cute. Disney made the original film, based on Mary Rodgers’ novel, in 1977. It starred Barbara Harris and Jodie Foster as a mom and daughter who magically switch bodies and must go through a day in each other’s skin. The property was remade for TV in 1995 and, in reality, the concept stretches from 1948’s “Vice Versa” to 1988’s “Big.”
Thanks to a script by Heather Hach and Leslie Dixon, the new “Freaky” plays the obvious gags in ways both surprising and imaginative. And Jamie Lee Curtis and Lindsay Lohan appear to be having a blast playing each other’s characters for more than half the film.
The update also is a much hipper movie. Fifteen-year-old Anna (Lohan) plays guitar in a rock band and pursues an older high school boy (Chad Michael Murray), while her mom, a widow, is a day away from marrying her boyfriend (Mark Harmon), which does allow for modest sexual tensions.
So the PG-rated family comedy should produce solid box office numbers and continue the strong performance in ancillary markets.
Psychiatrist Tess Coleman (Curtis) and daughter Anna see eye-to-eye on virtually nothing. To Anna, her mom is a stressed-out shrink and control freak who is, as she says at least once a day, “ruining my life.”
To Tess, her daughter is self-centered, ungrateful and way too loud. Then there is Anna’s little brother (Ryan Malgarini), who constantly teases and torments her, yet Mom sticks up for him.
A visit to a Chinatown restaurant and the mysterious gift of identical fortune cookies by its meddling though sagacious owner results in “Asian voodoo,” which causes the seismic personality switch between mother and daughter the next morning. The two first react to the other’s body.
Staring at a middle-aged woman in the mirror, Anna shrieks, “I look like the Crypt Keeper!” Tess hollers too when she discovers her daughter’s pierced belly button.
To her mother’s horror, Anna gives Tess’ body a credit card-financed makeover with short hair and hipper clothes. To Anna’s shock, her mother wears Anna’s hair up and dresses more maturely.
Other confusions make for a long day for those who orbit around their lives, especially when each must confront the other’s love interest. Naturally, the two learn meaningful things about one another as well.
Tess discovers the veracity of her daughter’s complaints about school and her passion for her music. And Anna begins to see not only her mother but her mom’s fiance in a new light.
Curtis has always had an affinity for comedy, never better displayed than here as she almost literally jumps into acting like a rebellious teenager. Lohan, who played twin sisters in another Disney remake, 1998’s “The Parent Trap,” plays a different kind of dual role here and does so with remarkable ease, moving back and forth between two personas.
Veteran Harold Gould earns laughs as the often perplexed grandfather. Harmon can do little with such a “straight man” role, but Murray’s character is given more comic latitude when he bewilderingly finds himself falling for Anna in her mom’s body.
The director is Mark Waters, maker of a Sundance fave, the twisted dark comedy “The House of Yes.” It is hard to imagine a more radical shift in tone between these two films, but Waters adjusts quite well, moving the picture along at a brisk clip and giving his performers plenty of room to convey the conflicting demands on their behavior.
Music plays a key role as Anna’s band actually plays decent rock music. All other technical credits are solid, though the Southern California locations look a tad familiar.