Freaky Friday (2003) — Living in each other’s shoes for the day

“I’m like the Cryptkeeper!”

Justin’s rating: I missed the scene where the daughter has to learn about menopause in her mom’s body

Justin’s review: As a movie critic, I have a first line of defense for going to see films embarrassing to my gender and good taste (included, but not limited to, anything including the words “Groove Back,” “Traveling Pants,” “Magnolias,” or “Ya-Ya”). When the common people in the theater or rental store look at me and shake their head sadly, I usually am able to throw up a quick quilt of desperate excuses by telling them I have to see it, I’m a critic! It’s what I do! Sure, I’d rather be vacationing in a Turkish prison with a notoriously slippery bar of soap, but I’m married to my job!

The truth is, I actually wanted to see Freaky Friday. But it being the Death Star of testosterone — a combo platter of mother/daughter bonding and a YM interview — I needed a better shield than the typical Movie Critic Defence (the lower-case “c” provided by British Letter Exports, Inc.). Thinking and thinking, I thought and thought, and ended up dragging an actual girl to the theater, hiding behind her like a frightened door mouse in a room packed with… well, I’m out of semi-clever metaphors and similes for the day. You fill in the blank.

Radioing out from row 14, seat P, I managed to get the word to the resistance that Freaky Friday is worth seeing. Really. Yes, despite being a Disney remake of a movie I didn’t watch as a kid, it’s actually not half-bad. Which, by using advanced calculus, makes it half-good.

[cue up the Brady Bunch theme song music] Here’s a story of a girl named Jamie, who was living in a big house of her own. She had two kids, living together, but they were all alone. [Buh-ba-ba-ba-bum] Here’s a story of a teen named Anna, who couldn’t really get up for school. Sure they fought a lot, and hated each other, but that’s the normal rule. Until one day that the mommy went for Chinese, and they ate some dumb fortune cookies all wrong. The next day, they woke up as each other, but that’s the end of my song.

Thank you.

Okay, the plot’s nothing to scream about from the rooftops (but if you’re the type who does that anyway, you probably need more help than the moving picture industry can provide), yet the way Freaky Friday gels together is terrifically pleasing. First of all, it’s a hoot and a holler to see Jamie Lee Curtis take on the perfect mannerisms of a fidgety, crotchety teenage girl (not that the other girl, Lindsay Lohan, doesn’t do as good of a job as the mom-in-kid’s-body, but it’s just not as funny of a role). And second of all, since we the audience are in on the big secret, the whole film becomes a massive in-joke that we feel privileged to sit in on.

Sure, the whole body swapping genre was played out by the late ’80s (1976’s Freaky Friday starring Jodie Foster and 1988’s Vice Versa being the two most famous), but I’m convinced there’s nothing Hollywood can’t resurrect for one more college try. What makes this sort of ridiculous plot work is highlighting the normal behavior patterns of kids versus adults, and doing some splendid role-reversal, bringing about some sort of tear-producing revelation by the end. Seeing a film where everyone pokes fun at their origins — kids and grown-ups, mothers and daughters — is a comedic gold mine.

Aside from the fairly good acting, everything else plays nice and shares with the rest of the class. The pace is fast (sped up at times to get to the interesting stuff), the situations believable yet absurd, a couple of touching moments about the value of family, and the soundtrack ain’t too shabby. Aside from my own bellyful of chuckles, I can vouch for a good portion of our theater audience who really got into this movie, laughing and hooting, groaning at the right times, and even applauding once the film was over.

It didn’t even hit me until I was halfway home that Freaky Friday did something else incredible: It scarcely had any swear words or otherwise objectionable content AND was funny anyway! Imagine if this sort of thing could happen on a more regular basis!

Freaky Friday is good, possibly good enough to own in The Collection. Maybe. All I know is that the day after I watched this movie, I woke to find myself in my pug dog Caesar’s body, and I can identify. He spent the whole day sleeping, chasing his butt, and begging strangers for food, and I pretty much did the same.

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