Saturday, November 28, 2009

The Parent Trap (1961)/(1998)

Directed by David Swift (1961), Nancy Meyers (1998). This was not a particularly good movie in 1961 and it's a much worse movie in 1998. But the weird part is that the weak parts of this movie are not the ridiculousness of the premise -- which in case you didn't know involves an incredibly creepy premise in which a divorced couple has secretly divides their identical twins as if they're flatware or towels. I'm an advanced movie-lover, so I'm willing to work around this. The problem ends up being that the pacing drags, the characters are one-dimensional and the dialog is dry as a bone. In a way, it's strange that such a daring premise can command such a bland movie. This is a screwball comedy with no screwballs or comedy. It's tragic.

Here's what the 1961 version does have going for it: Haley Mills. At 15, she was a great actress, playing the two different identical twin characters in this (one a tomboy, one a cultured socialite, blah blah blah) with subtle distinction. While "The Parent Trap" does cry out for some broader plotting and dialog, it's not from her. The twins should be the smart center with a lot of broad insanity around them. Mills holds up her end of the bargain, but the rest of the flick never really catches fire until it's worn out its welcome in what feels like a fourth act.

The '98 re-make was not intended to be a a vehicle for Lindsay Lohan, who had not yet become star when it was made. Disney clearly had faith in her, though especially in retrospect it's unclear why. She hasn't exactly proven herself a bankable star nor an impressive talent, and looking at this movie it's not as if there's any impressive acting or charisma there to mislead anyone. Are there no talented kid actors out there or are the idol-makers at Disney so arrogant that they figure they can just pull anyone off the street and make them a star?

All I'm saying is that a misstep has clearly been made when Dennis Quaid is the most charismatic actor in a remake of "The Parent Trap."

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