The Parent Trap (1998) / Comedy-Romance

MPAA Rated: PG for some mild sensuality
Running Time: 127 min.

Cast: Lindsay Lohan, Dennis Quaid, Natasha Richardson, Elaine Hendrix, Lisa Ann Walter, Simon Kunz
Director: Nancy Meyers

Screenplay: David Swift, Nancy Meyers, Charles Shyer
Review published February 6, 2004

The Parent Trap is a Disney family movie, and that doesn't mean it's just for kids -- adults can enjoy this just as much.  Although it's a remake of the 1961 Disney classic, it holds up pretty well on its own, with some slight homages to the original for those who have seen it, but nothing that would confuse those who haven't.  It's bolstered by some very likeable performances, with Lindsay Lohan (Freaky Friday, Mean Girls) making quite a splash in an impressive debut dual role. 

In one of several major contrivances in the plot, the film starts out at a summer camp in New England, about 3000 miles from both the separated girls homes.  Eleven-year-olds Hallie and Annie were split at an early age when their parents Nick (Quaid, The Rookie) and Elizabeth (Richardson, Maid in Manhattan) divorced, leaving Hallie to grow up on a ranch in Napa Valley, CA, while Annie lived with her mum in London, England.  They are in for the shock of their lives as the two girls, who never knew of each others existence, meet for the first time, and soon become the sisters they never were allowed to be.  The girls do share one important trait: mischief, which causes them to come up with a plot to switch identities so each can get to know the parent they never really knew.  They both love the other parent instantly, and want them to get back together, but a major snag appears when Nick decides he want to marry gold digging beauty, Meredith (Hendrix, Inspector Gadget 2), while the mischievous twins decide they can't sit idly by.

I suppose they could have gotten real twins for the roles of the young girls, as Lohan wasn't a box office draw (at this point in her career), but I doubt that it would have made the film any better.  I honestly could not tell there weren't two Lohans there whenever they appear ( or is that, "she appears") on screen together, so credit the visual effects department for a job well done in all aspects.  With good use of body doubles on occasion, and perfectly timed reaction shots, it's very easy to forget the gimmick employed, which I suppose is the biggest compliment to those who created it. 

It's also easy to tell the "twins" apart, despite the fact that they switch identities on several occasions, so credit Lohan for being able to not only to do a decent enough job with a British accent, but also be able to play a Brit acting American and vice versa -- it's like four roles in one.  Not an easy feat to carry that kind of load for your first time out.

As delightful as it is most of the time, I do have a few minor gripes that did detract from the overall enjoyment.  There are some hard-to-swallow occurrences that take place, and you'll have to suspend a great deal of disbelief that the parents cannot tell the difference between the two girls, or that they can't really remember why they ever got divorced.  The movie is also very long for a family film, clocking in at over two hours, and while it is a breezy and amiable time spent to be sure, fatigue does eventually set in somewhat.

Still, The Parent Trap benefits from being in the competent hands of romantic comedy veterans, first-time director Nancy Meyers (What Women Want, Something's Gotta GIve) and hubby screenwriting partner Charles Shyer (Father of the Bride, I Love Trouble), a duo that knows how to build up likeable characters and give them witty dialogue.  It's really a surprisingly well made film (plot conveniences notwithstanding) that could have gone wrong in so many different ways, but its infectiously sweet nature and good casting makes it a winner in the end.  Recommended for the entire family.

Qwipster's rating

©2004 Vince Leo