[Screen It]

(2003) (Jamie Lee Curtis, Lindsay Lohan) (PG)

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Comedy: A teenager and her mother must contend with how each other lives when they inadvertently switch bodies on the eve of the mother's wedding.
15-year-old Anna Coleman (LINDSAY LOHAN) is a typical teenager who likes hanging out with her friends, is constantly annoyed by her younger brother, Harry (RYAN MALGARINI), and thinks that her mom, Tess (JAMIE LEE CURTIS), is a square and out of touch with her times.

Tess, on the other hand, is a harried psychologist and widow whose wedding to Ryan (MARK HARMON) is fast approaching. She's concerned not only with Anna's less than enthusiastic response to that, but also with her growing rebellious attitude.

That comes to a head in a Chinese restaurant over Anna wanting to play with her garage band in an important tryout that just so happens to fall on the night of the rehearsal dinner. An older Asian restaurant worker then brings them fortune cookies whose duplicate fortunes put a spell on both women.

The next morning, Anna wakes up Tess' body and vice-versa, much to the shock and dismay of both of them. Not wanting to let anyone know what's happened, the two try to pose as each other, with Anna (in Tess' body) heading off to work and dealing with the thought of marrying Ryan the next day, while Tess (in Anna's body) heads off to school where she meets Jake (CHAD MICHAEL MURRAY), the hunky young guy Anna likes.

With the band gig and the rehearsal dinner fast approaching, Anna and Tess try to fool everyone else into believing who they are, all while learning a thing or two about how the other actually lives.

OUR TAKE: 6.5 out of 10
If you've ever watched a sports team come from behind and win the game or a less than attractive kid turn out to be a good looking adult, you'll know what it's like to watch the remake of "Freaky Friday." That's because this film is ugly at the onset and appears to be a losing cause, yet manages to turn into a winning effort by the time the end credits roll.

It wasn't to the film's benefit that I didn't have high hopes for it. That was not only due to it being a remake, but also because it's continuing a resurgent trend in those usually awful body-switching movies. Following the atrocious "The Hot Chick" and related parts of "Monkeybone," I certainly didn't expect this film to be like "Big" as compared to its far more lame 1980s counterparts, "Vice-Versa" and "18 Again."

It's not anywhere as good as Penny Marshall's film that heavily benefited from Tom Hanks' masterful performance, but this one manages to succeed thanks to the similar pivotal ones in it. As given the contemporary update from the 1976 Barbara Harris and Jodie Foster film by screenwriters Heather Hach (making her debut) and Leslie Dixon ("The Thomas Crown Affair," "Mrs. Doubtfire"), this effort goes through the predictable motions of setting up the mother and daughter characters, their relationship, and clashing lifestyles and persona.

With each introduced bit or characteristic, one can easily tell how they'll pay off later in the film. Considering that and the abysmal opening, hyper-kinetic editing and initially uneven directorial touch by Mark Waters ("Head Over Heels," "The House of Yes"), I feared that I was going to be in for an excruciating 90-some minutes watching what appeared was headed for cinematic disaster.

Yet, just like when an athlete turns on the afterburners and rallies his or her team from certain defeat to crowd pleasing victory, Jamie Lee Curtis ("Halloween Resurrection," "The Tailor of Panama") and Lindsay Lohan ("The Parent Trap") step up to the plate. Throwing all caution to the wind - especially on the part of Curtis - the two excel at doing comedic impersonations of the other's character.

Going more for the goofy slapstick approach than Kathleen Turner's somewhat similar but more mature turn in "Peggy Sue Got Married," Curtis is nothing short of a blast to watch playing the teenager inhabiting her mother's middle-aged body. Lohan is also quite good doing the opposite, and once the actual crossover effect finally occurs, the film suddenly turns into an enjoyable, entertaining and often quite funny little romp.

It's almost as if the performances have suddenly inspired everyone else as both the writing and direction take a welcomed turn for the better. While I probably would have delved deeper into each character doing a bit more detective work into seeing how the other half truly lives - including going through drawers and diaries, and "interrogating" the other's peers - the cast and crew do get some good mileage out of what could have otherwise been some mundane material.

Of course, given the fact that everything must occur with the titular day, there's not much time left for such investigation, what with the pending wedding and garage band tryout. Yet, with the inclusion of such material, this could have been something nearing classic comedy, rather than just an entertaining diversion (not, as the cast of "Seinfeld" would say, that there's anything wrong with that).

As far as the supporting performances are concerned, Mark Harmon ("The Presidio," "Summer School") really can't do much as the groom and straight-man role. A little more work on the character could have yielded some far funnier results. Ryan Malgarini (making his debut) gets to deliver some funny responses to his "mother" suddenly treating him like his sister would (since she really is her).

Harold Gould ("The Master of Disguise," "Patch Adams") is present for some additional comedy including a brief running gag bit about earthquakes, while Chad Michael Murray ("Megiddo: The Omega Code 2," TV's "Dawson's Creek") is present for the teen romance angle that becomes complicated when his character falls for Anna in Tess' body.

It's all silly stuff that's automatically precluded from serious examination or serious reviewing due to its body-switching plot. Even so, and thanks to some decently staged, opposites-based comedy scenes and those finely nuanced performances by Lohan and particularly Curtis, this effort overcomes a shaky and less than promising start to emerge as an entertaining winner. Nothing great but certainly enjoyable to behold, "Freaky Friday" rates as a 6.5 out of 10.

Reviewed July 21, 2003 / Posted August 6, 2003

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