The Parent Trap
1998, PG, 128 min. Directed by Nancy Meyers. Starring Dennis Quaid, Natasha Richardson, Lindsay Lohan, Lisa Ann Walter, Simon Kunz, Elaine Hendrix, Ronnie Stevens.
REVIEWED By Hollis Chacona, Fri., July 31, 1998
In the sunny, innocent years that preceded the scourge of adolescence, my good humor could be bought with an ice cream cone or a round of miniature golf, or, especially, a Saturday matinee. I think of them, fondly, as the Hayley Mills years. When I saw the first The Parent Trap, starring my idol, it never seemed even the tiniest bit odd that two thinking, caring parents would separate their twins at birth, each lovingly raising one without giving the slightest hint (or seeming thought) about the other's existence. At 8, I found the movie hilariously funny and heart-wrenchingly romantic and not at all dastardly or preposterous. So it was with a mixture of trepidation and anticipation that I (now a middle-aged mother and devoid of nearly all innocence) looked forward to this remake. Could it possibly measure up to the original? Lohan (Hallie/Annie) is spunky and cute as a button and her British accent puts Mills' attempt at hip California lingo to shame, but could she possibly replace those wide blue eyes, those Vaselined lips, that silly blonde bob? Unfortunately, my 11-year-old daughter and would-have-been movie companion was (ironically) off at summer camp and unable to attend the screening with me. My dependable, immediate litmus test would not be available. And, truth be told, though missed, she was not needed. The audience was filled with vocal, delighted children. Apparently, the story of two look-alikes who meet at summer camp, develop an immediate mutual animosity only to discover they are twin sisters, then scheme to switch identities in order to play Cupid for their divorced parents, stands the test of time. Though updated to include a successful working mother, a not-for-the-squeamish ear-piercing scene, and some pretty obvious product placement, The Parent Trap manages to work in a fair amount of classic material from the original. (The stick-clacking mountain-lion-prevention trick is every bit as funny today as it was 37 years ago.) Director Meyers and co-writer husband Charles Shyer (Private Benjamin, Father of the Bride) show the 1961 classic (and its baby-boomer audience) its due respect through a number of sly references to the original, and silly, sly, and fun Sixties references pop up throughout the movie, but it is plenty Nineties enough for the 12-and-under crowd. Quaid and Richardson glow as the likable, lovely to look at parents, Hendrix glints as the hard-as-her-long-red-nails gold digger who threatens the girls' family reunification plan, and Walter and Kunz shine as the grounded housekeeper and goofy butler. Lohan, well, she's no Hayley Mills, but The Parent Trap is still a big triple dipper of a cone. Vanilla and sweet, it's an overly generous helping that, if it doesn't make you sick, will put you in a good humor all day long.