The Parent Trap (1998), by Albert W. Vogt III

Since I did the original 1961 version of The Parent Trap, why not review the 1998 remake?  I like both of them equally, even if the more staid Hayley Mills is replaced in the update by the less stable Lindsay Lohan.  Still, she was an innocent adolescent when she starred in the Disney update, so she can hardly be blamed for anything her future self did.  In the film, she is cute as a button, although there is a slightly off-putting scene where she loses a bet at camp and is forced to jump in the lake sans clothing.  Even if it was the 1990s, I cannot imagine the Mouse allowing anything like that, then or now.

Instead of sticking to my usual routine, I will instead talk about the differences between the first Parent Trap film and the modern version.  You can read my review of the 1961 film if you need a refresher.  In truth, there are not many.  Sure, some of the names are changed.  The Hayley Mills’ dual roles of Sharon McKendrick/Susan Evers are now Annie James/Hallie Parker with Lindsay Lohan.  Still, the plot is the same.  Two seeming strangers, unaware that they have an exact twin, show up at a summer camp and inevitably bump into each other.  While they initially do not like one another, a series of escalating pranks (the focus of the first act of the 1998 iteration) leads to Hallie and Annie being put in the isolation bunk where they are forced to either get along or kill each other.  It does not take long for them to realize the obvious: they are twins.  Annie had been taken by her mother Elizabeth (Natasha Richardson) to London, England (one difference to the original), and Hallie had been raised by their father Nick (Dennis Quaid), at his Napa Valley, California, vineyard.  In sum, divergent names and locations, but basically the same idea.  When the twins make the decision to switch places, you could overlay their preparation scenes between the two movies and have mirror images.  Okay, the modern ones have to pierce their ears, but that is about it.  One thing I do appreciate about the modern version, though, is that it takes a little more time developing relationships.  This is not simply between the twins who assume their doppelgänger’s identities to meet their long-lost parents, but between Nick and Elizabeth.  Though the first meeting between the ex-couple takes place in a San Francisco hotel instead of at the father’s ranch as in 1961 (which I always thought an extra layer of unneeded awkward), their interactions point more concretely to their eventual reconciliation.  In the predecessor, the parents Mitch Evers (Brian Keith) and Maggie McKendrick (Maureen O’Hara) spend most of their time bickering until the very end when, seemingly out of the blue, Mitch decides he is still in love with Maggie because he sees her in a domestic capacity . . . I guess?  In the 1998 update, the twins arrange a date for Nick and Elizabeth that, while also mimicking the first date idea as before, at least does not devolve into more fighting.  Instead, you can see the connection between the two.  Yet, because Nick is engaged to the young and vivacious Meredith Blake (Elaine Hendrix), they agree to stick with their current arrangement.  As with the other, this leads the twins to dress in similar ways, hiding their identity so that it could not be discerned which is which, and thus buying more time for the eventual reconciliation.  There is the concomitant trek into California mountains back at the dad’s place, which leads the girls to playing enough tricks on Meredith that she decides to call off the engagement.  Again, this is all familiar.  Where it varies is in the aftermath of Meredith’s act.  While Nick and Elizabeth have a tender moment when he and the twins return from camping, they do not immediately patch things up as do Mitch and Maggie.  Instead, Elizabeth feels she is not ready to take the step before her, and takes Annie back to London.  This is where this one shines a little more.  One of things that Elizabeth indicated earlier about her previous separation from Nick is the disappointment she felt that he did not come after her.  When Elizabeth and Annie enter their London home, they are greeted by Nick and Hallie.  This time Nick has chased her.  The end credits feature their new wedding.

I am not sure why there needed to be a retelling of The Parent Trap.  As a kid who grew up with the Disney Channel, I remember seeing the one starring Hayley Mills and thinking it was pretty cool.  You can read my review of that one to see a fuller treatment of the cleverness of how they handled one person playing two people in 1961.  In the 1998 version, they did not appear to do anything too different, although there is seemingly less of Lindsay Lohan’s double, Erin Mackey, in it.  One other interesting aspect is how smoking and drinking are handled.  Had the update of The Parent Trap been done today, undoubtedly you would have seen a lot less of it given that it is rated PG.  In 1961, few people thought anything of such behavior.  In 1998, we were a little more aware, though you see Elizabeth panic smoking when she finds out she is going to see Nick again after so long.  She also gets drunk on vodka on the flight over, downing the last drops as she arrives at the hotel in San Francisco.  Clearly not typical PG fair today.  I also do not quite understand two other short parts of both films.  Before the twins realize who one another is in the respective films, there is a scene where you see one them in (and I wrestled with how to put this) where they are nude.  In the earlier one, you see Susan Evers taking a shower with her bunkmates, and they are chatting about how awful is Sharon McKendrick to them.  Why this particular part had to be done while they are bathing, I do not know.  With the later one, it is the aforementioned scene where Annie James jumps into the lake without clothes on.  You know, typical eleven-year-old bets.  It should be made clear that in each the principal people are shown from the shoulders up.  I just do not understand why they were necessary at all.

In my review of the original The Parent Trap, I talked about the Catholic Church’s stance on divorce.  Given how similar are the two films, there is really no point in repeating it in this one.  Suffice to say that while it is not impossible for married couple to separate in the Catholic Church, it is also highly discouraged.  Instead of giving up on a relationship, husbands and wives going through difficulties are encouraged to seek help for that which is causing problems. Ultimately, the charm of these films is, because they acknowledge how unfortunate it is that divorce has become so common, the fact that the parents get back together is refreshing.  I daresay they are almost countercultural.  They are both worth viewing.


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