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Xpress, the Coolest Section of the St. Petersburg Times, is the home for features, news and views of interest to young readers. Most of the work in Xpress, which appears on Mondays in Floridian, is produced by the Times' X-Team. The team of journalists ages 9-17 from around the Tampa Bay area is selected every year at the end of the school year to serve during the following school term. The current team of 12 was chosen out of 150 applicants. Watch for X-Team application forms in Xpress during the month of May.


Read the reviews by Xpress Film Critic Billy Norris


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Movie Review

It's super 'Freaky'

Disney's remake of Freaky Friday is a very special film, one that will never let your spirits down.

By BILLY NORRIS
Published August 11, 2003

Jamie Lee Curtis and Lindsay Lohan get down
[Disney]
Jamie Lee Curtis, left, and Lindsay Lohan star in Freaky Friday.

When Freaky Friday debuted in 1976, there was no doubt this was a broad farce, a comedy meant to play just for laughs and nothing more.

So when the decision was made to remake the unbearably outdated original, the creators were aiming to take on this premise in a more realistic manner, or as realistic as it can be when the plot is about a mom and her daughter switching bodies.

This time, when the switch occurs, it is presented with a moral, and the intention of giving audiences something to relate to.

And it's funny, too.

Jamie Lee Curtis, who plays the mom, watched the original, which starred Jodie Foster and Barbara Harris, before production of the new film began. "As soon as I watched five minutes of it, I remembered that it's a farce, and this is a fable, and there's a big difference between a farce and a fable: A farce is never supposed to be real for one minute. It's never supposed to ring true," Curtis said in a recent phone interview with the St. Petersburg Times. "This one allows for some real relating."

Tess Coleman (Curtis) is a psychologist, author of a new book, soon-to-be newlywed and most importantly, a mom to her two kids, Anna (Lindsay Lohan, The Parent Trap) and Harry (Ryan Malgarini). Rebellious rocker Anna, who is constantly butting heads with her mom, is struggling in school, fighting with her brother and falling for a guy who doesn't have her mom's approval.

Tess thinks Anna needs to work harder, pay less attention to her band and show a little more appreciation for her family. Anna thinks that Mom's life is cake and that she couldn't last one day in her frenzied high-school life.

After a quarrel in a Chinese restaurant, Tess and Anna are given fortune cookies that put them under a spell. They wake up the next morning in one another's bodies and are faced with a not-so-easy task.

After several attempts to reverse the spell (such as running smack into each other to try and jolt it out), they realize that they can't make the switch; they'll just have to play the roles.

With a wedding coming up, and an audition for Anna's band at the House of Blues looming (at the same time as the wedding rehearsal dinner, of course), this becomes a true test of selfless love, the only thing that will break the spell.

What sets this film apart from the others that have attempted this premise (1987's Like Father, Like Son; 1988's Vice Versa; 2002's The Hot Chick) is its sense of validity. Sure, this would never happen in real life, but the on-screen chemistry between Curtis and Lohan is authentic.

To ensure that the actors understood their roles, director Mark Waters filmed Curtis and Lohan reading one another's parts during a rehearsal. They've never been shown the tape, but it's apparent this gave them a grasp on their roles.

"I think the process of doing that just once gave (us) just enough of what the real behavior would be like, that it kind of gelled us together very quickly," Curtis said.

Having a teenage daughter of her own definitely gave Curtis a foundation to build on as well. Before and after the switch, the true insight into the lives of a working mother and the defiant teenage daughter adds a special touch - a touch audiences will relate to.

"Every mother who has tried to do many things, as soon as they see me doing yoga and painting my nails, will immediately appreciate the struggle that mommies have, and that same thing happens with the teenage girl," said Curtis, who also has a son.

Having that realistic element in common with fictional characters pulls the audience into the film and connects them to the story. Mothers and daughters aren't the only ones who can relate. I've encountered similar situations with my mom, as I'm sure many other sons or fathers have.

After her daughter Annie viewed the film, Curtis received a truly unexpected reaction from her. "I thought, just by nature, being a 16-year-old girl, she would just automatically have disdain for a Disney movie about a mom and a teenage girl," Curtis said. "I think she was genuinely surprised by how much she liked it, how moved she was by it, and how funny it was."

The whole film was like that, actually, a lot better than I expected. Disney has created a great fable with a message, and fairly wide appeal. You really can't compare it to its predecessor; the two films are like apples and oranges.

The new release is a good family movie, which was one of the things that attracted Curtis to it. "In any good fable, there's always a moment of truth, and you know the moment of truth is important and special," she said. "I think that it touches people, and because of that, the movie works."

- Billy Norris, 15, is in the 10th grade at Seminole High School, and is a former member of the Times' X-Team.

Freaky Friday

GRADE: B+

DIRECTOR: Mark Waters

SCREENPLAY: Heather Hach

CAST: Jamie Lee Curtis, Lindsay Lohan, Mark Harmon, Chad Michael Murray, Harold Gould, Ryan Malgarini, Christina Vidal, Haley Hudson

RATING: PG; mild thematic elements, some language

RUNNING TIME: 93 minutes

[Last modified August 8, 2003, 13:07:25]

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