Disney plunders its live action film archives once again -- after recent versions of "That Darn Cat," "The Absentminded Professor," and others -- in this remake of the 1961 film of the same name. Originally starring Hayley Mills in the dual sister roles along with Brian Keith and Maureen O'Hara, the original isn't a Disney classic, but is beloved by many who grew up with it.
Pretty much faithful to the original, this remake essentially follows the same plot (with newly named characters and locales) and even clocks in at nearly the same, but still quite overlong running length of a little more than two hours.
That said, it's not a great film by any means and is at least half an hour too long, but it still comes across as an enjoyable enough, although lightweight diversion that should at least partially please nearly everyone who sees it. Even so, the odds are that the fans of the original will like it more than the kids of today who may find the proceedings either too quaint (if they're older) or too restless (if they're younger).
Aside from the preposterous notion that serves as the story's catalyst -- of two parents splitting a set of identical twins at birth with each taking one and never even trying to contact the other for more than a decade -- the plot is serviceable but nothing outstanding. Nonetheless, the writing/directing/producing team of Nancy Meyers and Charles Shyer (the "Father of the Bride" movies, "Private Benjamin") have included enough funny, charming, and occasionally heartfelt moments to please all but the most hardened of cynics.
They seem to have missed, however, a gold mine of potential during the scenes where the two girls assume the other's identity and go back to live with the parents they've never known and the homes they've never seen. Getting past the curious fact about why the girls would have photos of everyone they know with them at summer camp (used to teach the other the faces of those they're about to meet), a few minor laughs occasionally occur, but the filmmakers (with the assistance of fellow scribe David Swift -- the writer/director of the original film as well as "Pollyanna") neglect the many comic opportunities that naturally would arise from such a "fish out of water" setup.
Instead, everything moves along at a predictable pace, with nothing grand, special, or particularly interesting occurring along the way. We are "treated," however, to yet another varied soundtrack of songs from different eras that accompanies the "action," and one gets the feeling that all of the songs are there only to sell yet another soundtrack compilation. Fortunately, most of that disappears in the second half, although in its absence one notes that the music often infused some much needed energy into many of the scenes.
Technically, the effect of placing young actress Lindsay Lohan simultaneously into the same scene as both twins is seamless (via a motion-control camera that tracks and recreates the same camera movement from an earlier take). While Lohan doesn't do much more than use a British accent to differentiate the characters, the two do seem to be distinct personas and one quickly forgets the technical trickery that's making such scenes possible.
Playing the twin parts and assuming the beloved role played by Hayley Mills in the original, Lindsay Lohan is charming and likeable enough to make the role her own. While her characters aren't that different -- notwithstanding the accents and basic cultural background differences -- Lohan deserves kudos for being able to play against her "other" self when in fact she was never really there.
As the adults, Dennis Quaid ("The Big Easy," "Something to Talk About") and Natasha Richardson ("Nell," "Patty Hearst") are just as likeable, and easily fit into the characters we naturally want to see get back together just as much as their daughters do.
Elaine Hendrix ("Romy and Michele's High School Reunion") chews up the scenery in her stereotypical, snobbish character, but Lisa Ann Walter and Simon Kunz ("Four Weddings and a Funeral") steal the show -- particularly Kunz -- in their "hired help" roles.
It's nice to see a pro-family movie, especially one where the kids obviously love and praise their parents and wish for them to be one big, happy family. Most kids should easily get that message beyond all of the hijinks and kid-oriented material that occur, but the film's length of a little more than two hours might prove restless, especially for younger ones. Likewise, adults may find themselves wishing the film were at least a half hour shorter, as the film tends to get a bit tedious particularly as the proceedings draw to a close.
Even so, you can't help but like this charming little film that feels like a throwback to those pictures the Disney studios used to make (when compared to the more hyped up recent remakes of their other live action pictures). While way too long and lacking in originality or surprises, the winning performances and overall charm the film easily exudes makes it a worthwhile antidote for moviegoers looking for a family film amidst the choppy, testosterone filled seas of the summer movie season. We give "The Parent Trap" a 6 out of 10.