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  • Ryan Arnold

Film Review: 'Freaky Friday' (2003)

Believe it or not, Disney's 2003 fantasy-comedy, "Freaky Friday," starring Jamie Lee Curtis and Lindsay Lohan, turns 20 this month.

The movie is based on the 1972 novel of the same name and was Disney's third of four film adaptations (1976, 1995, 2003 and 2018), and it was the version praised the most by critics.

The story centers around the messy relationship of a mother (a hilarious Curtis) and daughter (a wonderful Lohan), who accidentally switch bodies with a magical Chinese fortune cookie. Everything about their on-screen mother-daughter relationship is natural, charming and full of heart.

Anna (Lohan) is an aspiring teenage rock star, while her widowed therapist mother, Tess (Curtis), is getting ready for her upcoming wedding.

"Freaky Friday" is a very music-centered movie, showcasing a mix of pop-punk, pop-rock and alternative songs from the early 2000s. The film's orchestral score was written by composer Rolfe Kent and orchestrated by conductor Tony Blondal. Kent and Blondal have frequently collaborated throughout the years; other films they've worked on together include "17 Again," "Ghosts of Girlfriends Past" and "Mr. Popper's Penguins."

Simple Plan's cover of The Turtles' "Happy Together" opens the film and mood with the chaos and busyness that surrounds the Coleman family. But "so happy together" is not Anna and Tess' relationship. Anna is going through her teenage grunge phase, does not care much about school and is focused on her band Pink Slip.

Later, the band practices in Anna's garage for an upcoming audition spot in Wango Tango at the House of Blues. The audition happens to be on the same night as Tess' rehearsal dinner. The Coleman family is still mourning the loss of their father, so Anna lacks any interest in Tess' fiancé Ryan ("NCIS" star Mark Harmon).

Following the scene where the two main characters switch bodies, Friendlies' emo-pop song "Me vs. the World" comes on after Anna (who is now Tess trapped in Anna's body) attends school the next day. She meets Anna's crush Jake ("One Tree Hill" star Chad Michael Murray) and her nemesis Stacey (Julie Gonzalo).

Lillix's version of "What I Like About You" comes on afterward when Tess (who is now Anna trapped in Tess' body) decides to splurge and get a complete makeover. Lillix's cover of The Romantics' hit works so well with this scene, and Curtis nails the bit with her giddiness and charm.

Both Curtis and Lohan excel at mimicking each other's mannerisms. It's an energetic force of comedy and heart. Curtis was nominated for a Golden Globe for this role, and I am dead serious when I say she should have also been nominated for an Oscar here. "Freaky Friday" is one of Curtis' best roles of her career

Andrew W.K.'s "She Is Beautiful" blasts on the screen next with a combination of alterative and hard rock in an epic scene where Curtis crowd-surfs at a daytime talk show interview. It is another example of a song that works incredibly well with its corresponding scene, along with Curtis' comedic talent. This is also where Jake (Murray) begins to become romantically interested in Tess, after he sees her on television during that daytime interview.

Bowling for Soup's cover of Britney Spears' "... Baby One More Time" comes on next in the background of a coffee shop where Jake and Tess have a moment together singing and laughing to this song. It's a track that one could belt out for hours, which is exactly what Jake does a little later in the movie at Anna and Tess' house. It is a hilarious scene involving Murray and Lohan.

"What a Wonderful World," performed by Joey Ramone, plays in another scene when Tess gets a ride back to her house on Jake's motorcycle, and her fiancé Ryan spots them on the road from his car. Another comedy-filled scene with a giddy Curtis hugging onto Murray's back moves perfectly along to a rock-a-fide version of Louis Armstrong's classic song.

A pivotal scene in the movie comes when Ryan allows Anna and Tess to go to the Wango Tango audition during the rehearsal dinner. Tess, still trapped in Anna's body, does not know how to play the guitar, so she pretends. Anna, still trapped in Tess' body, plays behind the curtain to Pinkslip's "Take Me Away," with Curtis shredding it on the electric guitar.

The final song comes at the end of the movie after both Anna and Tess have switched back to their normal bodies. Anna performs her song "Ultimate" at her mom's wedding.

One critique I will make is that the film's writing of its Asian characters has not aged well. Actors Lucille Soong and Rosalind Chao, who are both great in the movie, play the mother and daughter of the Chinese restaurant that the Colemans attend. (Soong's character is the one who gives Tess and Anna the magical fortune cookie that body-swaps them.) Unfortunately, Soong and Chao are written more as stereotypes in this movie.

A sequel to "Freaky Friday" was announced earlier this year, and both Curtis and Lohan are expected to join. I am always skeptical when it comes to sequels of certain movies. This film technically does not need one, but if Curtis and Lohan come back, I will watch it.

2003's "Freaky Friday" is a fun film with a lot of laughter and rock and roll. This movie is still as enjoyable and lighthearted as it was 20 years ago.


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