Originally created 08/07/03

At the Movies: 'Freaky Friday'

"Freaky Friday" is not the latest in Ice Cube's series of "Friday" comedies - something the world doesn't need. It's a remake of the 1976 movie starring Jodie Foster and Barbara Harris - something else I thought the world didn't need.

As a little girl, I loved the movie (and the children's book by Mary Rodgers) about a mother and daughter who wake up to find they've switched bodies. Why go and ruin a good thing with a remake?

But this new "Freaky Friday" is so funny and charming, it's better than I ever could have imagined. And that has everything to do with its stars.

Jamie Lee Curtis and Lindsay Lohan have a great gift for physical comedy, and are so convincing - this is going to sound ridiculous, I realize - they actually make you believe they've swapped bodies for the day.

Lohan (who starred as identical twins in another Disney remake, 1998's "The Parent Trap") takes over the Foster role as Anna, a teenager whose mother is, like, totally ruining her life.

In Foster's hands, the character was a tomboy. Here, she's more of an Avril Lavigne type, with her stick-straight hair and baggy cargo pants. And like Lavigne, she plays the electric guitar and sings in a band, which her mom, Tess (Curtis), dismisses as noise.

Tess, a psychiatrist whose husband died a few years ago, is preparing to get remarried to Ryan (Mark Harmon) in two days and is juggling a million things at once.

Each thinks the other has it easy. After eating fortune cookies from a meddlesome woman who overhears them arguing at a Chinese restaurant, they find out the truth.

The next morning - a Friday - Anna is mortified to wake up in her mother's bed, in her mother's body. Tess, too, screams in horror when she awakens in Anna's pig sty of a bedroom and finds she's a teenager again.

Madcap hilarity ensues: Tess must remember how to handle the stresses of boys and tests in high school, Anna must assuage needy patients and make last-minute wedding arrangements - and drive the Volvo!

Director Mark Waters (whose previous films include the forgettable romantic comedy "Head Over Heels") keeps the mood breezy and, mercifully, not too corny.

And the dialogue from Heather Hach and Leslie Dixon's script never sounds forced - even when Tess and Anna reach a greater understanding of each other's lives. In fact, when that moment comes at Tess' rehearsal dinner, it has a surprising amount of emotional resonance because you come to care about these characters so much.

But "Freaky Friday" is all about the laughs, and it's great to see Curtis - the longtime scream queen in the "Halloween" movies - let loose and get a little goofy. "Could you, like, chill for a sec?" she scrunches her face and implores of Tess' fiance. Later, she has no problem tumbling over the back of a couch to avoid one of his kisses.

Curtis hasn't had a chance like this to show off her physical comedy skills since "True Lies" nearly a decade ago. She seems to be having a blast doing it, and it's a blast to watch.

Lohan, meanwhile, completely transforms - her carriage, her cadence, everything about her seems more mature when Tess is inside Anna's body. She's cute, she's likable and has a ton of presence. It wouldn't freak me out at all to see her go far.

"Freaky Friday," a Walt Disney Pictures release, is rated PG for mild thematic elements and some language. Running time: 95 minutes. Three stars out of four.


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