Freaky Friday is a 2003 American fantasy comedy film directed by Mark Waters; best known for commandeering ‘Mean Girls’, ‘Just like Heaven’ as well as the second installment of ‘Bad Santa’. Based on a novel by Mary Rodgers, the story pivots on a young teenager in Anna (Lindsay Lohan) and her mother Tess (Jamie Lee Curtis) who find themselves in a mammoth dilemma after mysterious fortune cookie they ingested makes them switch bodies.
To begin with, it’s safe to say that there is a lot that could go wrong with a movie bearing such a premise. Yes, I do agree there have been a number of them that are above par i.e. Norman Rene’s 1992 movie ‘Prelude to a Kiss’’ or 1998’s ‘Big’ starring Tom Hanks. At the same time, there are several that were simply shambolic case in point ’18 Again’, ‘The Change Up’ and my personal worst, 2002’s ‘Hot Chick’. I’m not really sure why there have been so many of these motion-pictures and additionally why accomplished actors e.g Ryan Reynolds or Rob Schneider take up roles in them; maybe there is the paycheck factor which can be a priority amongst performers but come on. The reason I say this is because there is only so much that actors involved in ‘body-swap’ movies can give in their performances and pull it off; they’d have to conduct themselves in a certain way to considerably convince the audience members (me and you) that the situation in play is as legit as it can be. However, that’s not to say that it can’t be done well. Having watched this Mark Waters photoplay, I can indeed affirm to you that the ‘body-swap’ thing needs three essential ingredients to make it work; a female to female body switch, great actors to play the characters and a great story to go along with the mentioned. I don’t have anything against the men’s way of acting but actresses indeed can go several notches higher to do these roles and that’s where the believability kicks in; Lohan and Curtis’s presentations here are very much a testament to it.
The characters these two actresses play have contrasting qualities as you would expect; they are mother and daughter. A number of scenes in the 1st Act especially the opening scene are exceptional in giving you a vivid description of the Coleman family situation in way that is not meant to overload with you with too much information but to keep you in the know. Anna, for starters, has questionable qualities though there is substantial relatability to her. She is a rebel (doesn’t want to heed her mother’s instructions), she is not doing well in school (gets the F grade in an English test), she has a knack for detention (Hits her troublesome nemesis with a ball during practice and also insults a teacher, all within a single day), she has a crush on a guy at school and finally, she just doesn’t want to open up to her mother’s fiancé and husband-to-be Ryan, played by Mark Harmon. Anna basically has deep issues which primarily trace back to the loss of her father as we come to know of in the penultimate stages of the movie. Lohan’s character was compelling, and I liked it.
The same goes for Jamie Lee’s. The character of Tess has a lot on her plate; she has a cumbersome job of being a psychiatrist which involves a lot of therapy sessions and many calls from her patients, she is getting married soon and therefore has to prepare, she has to drop and pick up her kids from school; the latter of whom give her troubles in her parenting especially in Anna’s case. In my view, the characterizations for the two individuals were good enough to invest in and made me take a short moment to ponder over how odd their lives would be when they eventually switched bodies judging by the preceding happenings. I had a number questions in my mind concerning the subject which to my delight, the movie essentially answered as it went along.
This film knew what it was about and it delivered excellently I must say. The stakes that the body switch presented was the spark that lit up the comedic fire which pretty much burned consistently throughout the movie’s run-time. On one hand, we have Tess in Anna’s body; she has to deal with the fact that she now has to go to school, has to deal with an adversary in class who is always trying to bring her down, has to deal with the would-be relationship between her and Jake (Chad Michael Murray) which was already afoot thanks to her daughter and finally she has to be a guitarist in a band that consists of her ‘friends’. On the other hand, we have Anna in Tess’s body; her problems are considerably worse, at least from my point of view. She is faced with the task of keeping up with a clearly smitten ‘fiancé’ in Ryan whom she constantly shuns away when he goes in for the kiss, she has to be a psychiatrist, the responsibility of dropping and picking up ‘Anna’ and her brother is now on her, she has to do her ‘wedding’ preparations and finally, she has to do an interview on a book she ‘wrote’. In as much as you want to feel pity for these characters especially considering the predicaments they are in, the movie does not give you that privilege because they carry out themselves in a way that is sure to elicit a laugh or two from you.
This movie, nevertheless, does have some features to it that aren’t alluring. Jake somehow falls in love with Anne, who so happens to be in Tess’s body; I didn’t get the logic towards it. All things considered, why would he? Yes, Tess exhibits a striking resemblance to Anna in her mannerisms but this is not enough reason for Jake to be like “Oh! I kinda like you”. Chad Murray’s character is certainly not entitled to feel that dating a ‘lady’ that is more than twice her ‘schoolmates’ age is appropriate in any way. Furthermore, his ‘crush situation’ doesn’t even tie in with what happens in the end when he gets to hook up with the real Anna. Last but not least, the whole fortune cookie thing involving Tess and Anna as well as the earthquake was just bland and unappetizing. The film should have gone for a better catalytic event to rock the main characters’ world and set in motion the central problem of the story, just saying.
By and large, the faults of this motion-picture did take a sting out of my watching experience but all the same, Freaky Friday gave me everything I needed from a film of its genre and so much more. I like rock music, I am a big fan of Lindsay Lohan and Chad Michael Murray, the comedy was good and the bona-fide moments were riveting and attractive. If you have haven’t watched this film yet, go watch it and if even if you have, you ought to watch it again; for old times’ sake.