Never mind Friday, the whole summer has been freaky. Ever since temperatures first hit seventy, the season has been one long festival of recycled updated sequel-stuffed deja vu. Never have so many paid so much to see so little they haven’t seen before.
A weekend hasn’t gone by without the release of a star-strewn sequel, remake or big screen version of a TV show. It’s like someone cast a spell on moviegoers. Now you see it, now you see it again.
Summers traditionally are a time for mindless fun at the cineplex but the past few months have taken the concept to a new extreme with results that in general were more mindless than fun. How many of us can honestly claim to have enjoyed ourselves at Bad Boys 2, 2 Fast 2 Furious, Dumb and Dumberer, Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle, Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life, The Hulk or S.W.A.T.? Film fare has been so consistently unsatisfying that Disney’s only so so “Freaky Friday” update by contrast looks like a triumph.
Of course, the studio ought to be getting these right at this point. The new version of the story starring Jamie Lee Curtis and Lindsay Lohan is, after all, the third it’s offered to the public. Who decided, I wonder, that recycling scripts this way is kosher while the same practice would get, say, a novelist or recording artist drummed out of the business in no time flat? Why are movie audiences any less entitled to original, inventive product? Freaky.
Anyway, you know the story: A mother and teenage daughter are experiencing the sort of communication breakdown customary between people separated by a generation and, as the result of a magical intervention, wind up swapping lives for a few days.
Curtis is a prominent, no nonsense psychiatrist. Lohan’s a 15 year old with a band and a pierced navel. The film takes its sweet time establishing their identities and getting around to the central event of their reversal. The scenes leading to this pivotal point are singularly bland-generic Disney snatches of comic domesticity in which a little brother sneaks a peek at his big sister’s diary, the big sister attempts to retaliate and the mother catches the sister in the process and mistakenly takes her to be the troublemaker. Godfather 3 didn’t require this much setting up. After almost a half hour of it, one is seriously ready for something to happen. Even if it is something one has seen happen twice before.
Post-personality switch, the picture does come to life somewhat but proves a one trick pony. The scenes which feature Curtis inhabiting the body of her daughter, going through the paces of a typical school day and interacting with her peers, have relatively little spark. Her sudden primness appears barely to register with her bandmates and, for the most part, minimal loopiness is mined from the situation.
The film’s laughs are by and large inspired by the sight of the 15 year old piloting the body of her middle aged mother. Curtis turns in a proficient performance and the highlight of the movie comes when she has to appear as a guest on a talk show to discuss mom’s new book which, naturally, she hasn’t read. Few situations in the film match this one’s energy and humor however and, 90 minutes in, all comic potential has been exhausted from the gimmick which has Curtis employing Gen Z lingo like “hello?”, “duh” and “snap”.
In the end, of course, mother and daughter come away from the experience with a touching new respect for one another. Though, of course, there’s no reason to expect this will really be the end. Having garnered some of the best reviews of the summer with their latest rehash, the film’s creators are no doubt already looking ahead to the next. Think of it: Disney has a surefire hit for the summer of 2020 or so and its core audience has yet to be born. Now that’s what I call freaky.