There is another Jamie Lee Curtis film that is out right now that I suppose is a little more seasonally appropriate. But since I do not care two bits about Halloween, I will not be reviewing the movie of the same name, even if it does have the tantalizingly hopeful subtitle of “Ends.” Perhaps Cameron will take that one, but if not, oh well. I promise that I will not lose one moment of sleep over the matter. Instead, today you are getting Freaky Friday (2003). I am doing the updated version (in case you could not tell from the date), and you can call it an homage to Curtis, if you wish, given the season. And it is kind of spooky. Remember when Halloween used to be about relatively harmless scary stuff? What could be scarier in this light than trading places with your mom?
In Freaky Friday we have a mother and daughter combination that does the swapping. They are, respectively, Tess Coleman (Jamie Lee Curtis), and her teenaged offspring Anna (Lindsay Lohan). There is also a son in this scenario, Harry (Ryan Malgarini), but he is relatively inconsequential, and there to play your stereotypical annoying little brother. The thing that is missing is a dad to the kids and a husband for Tess, and that is because he had died some years earlier. Anna and Tess are dealing with it in their own ways. For Tess, in her career as a therapist it is all about intellectualizing grief through her publications, and focusing on her clients. In Anna’s case, you have your typical rebelliousness as symbolized by her rock band, Pink Slip. Unsurprisingly, they have grown distant from each other, and their relationship is officially strained. What is making matters worse for Anna is the increasing presence of Ryan (Mark Harmon), Tess’ soon-to-be fiancé. Anna is not keen on anyone replacing her father. She makes her position worse with her mom when Tess finds out while picking Anna up from school that her daughter is into a young worker at the school, Jake (Chad Michael Murray), who has a motorcycle to boot. With things spirally in the wrong direction, the Colemans go to dinner at their favorite Chinese restaurant. Such is the tension between everyone, particularly after Tess forbids Anna from going to an audition for a record deal garnered by her band, that the staff give special fortune cookies to Anna and Tess. At the moment of their reading, there is an earthquake that only they can feel, and the next morning they awaken in each other’s bodies. For clarity’s sake, I am going to continue to call each by their character names. Just know that Anna’s consciousness is in her mom’s body, controlling it, and vice versa for Tess. It takes them a moment to realize what is going on, and they are not thrilled, to say the least. Nor do they completely understand how this has happened. For now, they must carry on with each other’s lives. Anna is given a crash course on how to be a good therapist, while Tess has to face the drama of being her daughter, and both of them are initially dismissive of these challenges. Anna does her best with Tess’ clients, but soon grows bored and decides to go shopping. As for Tess, she gets to experience some of the unfair treatment Anna had been complaining about but not acknowledging. The worst comes from Mr. Elton Bates (Stephen Tobolowsky), who Tess knew from her high school days. Another source of angst is Anna’s former friend, Stacey Hinkhouse (Julie Gonzalo), who Tess believes should still be close to Anna. To make amends, Tess offers to help Stacey with a test, but Stacey turns around and accuses Tess of cheating, landing Tess in detention. Later, after a disastrous television interview for Tess’ book set up by Ryan, Anna runs into Jake. Because Anna is still into Jake, despite Tess’ meddling, the two begin to talk about music. This part gets a little weird because they kind of go on dates with each other, and at one point kiss. As one can imagine, Ryan is quite confused by this odd behavior, though he does not find out about the kiss. What it does do is begin to make him wonder if their pending marriage should happen. What this experience has done for mother and daughter is make them better appreciate each other’s lives. It all comes down to the engagement dinner. Tess gets Anna to agree to go along with it, despite Pink Slip’s impending audition that Anna is clearly eager to be at. This is when Ryan steps in to save the day. Thinking that this is an opportunity to endear himself to Anna, he tells her to go to the performance. The only problem is that he is unwittingly telling Tess to go, and Tess cannot play the guitar like Anna. Yet another disaster is averted when Ryan tells Anna to go as well to support to who he thinks is her daughter. This means that Anna is able to play back stage while Tess pantomimes, and they rock their show. Back at the engagement party, the resulting toast to each other cements the selfless love they have for one another, and it results in our characters being switched back to their respective bodies. We close with the wedding between Ryan and Tess, with Pink Slip providing the music at the reception.
I was pleasantly surprised with Freaky Friday, more so than I would have believed going into it. Why did Lindsay Lohan ever get away from making movies of this nature? This, along with her first film, the remake of The Parent Trap (1998), and Mean Girls (2004), is great, and together they are films that I would watch (and have) repeatedly. In a sense, this feeds into my Catholic discussion of this film. Lohan’s career mimics the plot, although real life, unfortunately, had a lot more substance abuse and run-ins with the law. She looks better now, and, though I am no keen observer of her life, her turnaround seems to be owed to learning to appreciate what you have. One of the decades of the Joyful Mysteries of the Holy Rosary has as its fruit poverty. On the surface, this would be something from which most people would recoil. Who really wants to be poor? The problem with being poor is that it involves a realization of what you do not have. In the Church, people give up everything they possess to enter into a vocation (this works for marriage too, by the way) because they are gaining a further blessing of the gifts of God, and an inside track to the greatest treasure of all in Heaven. Anna and Tess lack nothing, save for a dad and husband. As such, they act poor because they are basing their behavior from that place of lacking. It is only by gaining the perspective of another in the most literal sense possible do the realize the treasure they have been blessed with in their family. By the end, they are thankful for each other, just as we should be thankful to God.
I guess one could say that Freaky Friday is a little dated. I would propose that is because the Lindsay Lohan of twenty years ago is different than the one we have today, particularly since she appears past her crazy phase. Either way, it is a film I would recommend over a whole host of other sludge that is available at your fingertips on demand, and that includes any of the Halloween installments.