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The Parent Trap

movie reviewmovie reviewmovie reviewvideo review out of 4 Movie Review: The Parent Trap

Starring: Lindsay Lohan, Dennis Quaid
Director: Nancy Meyers
Rated: PG
RunTime: 127 Minutes
Release Date: July 1998
Genres: Kids, Family

*Also starring: Natasha Richardson, Polly Holliday, Lisa Ann Walter, Elaine Hendrix, Simon Kunz, Joanna Barnes

Review by Harvey Karten
No Rating Supplied

In the movie "Love and Death on Long Island" Giles De'ath (John Hurt) tells young Ronnie Bostock (Jason Priestley) that if Shakespeare were alive today, he'd be making movies like "Hot Pants College." An exaggeration perhaps. A more realistic project for the Bard, were he alive now, would be a film like "The Parent Trap." Nancy Meyers's romantic comedy has the elements that Elizabethan audiences were so fond of: mistaken identity, outrageous coincidences, and parallel, romantic subplots. If Dan Quayle were a member of the Academy, he'd vot, er, vote an award for "The Parent Trap" not because it's Shakespearean ("what's that"?) but because it epitomizes family values. How could it not? "The Parent Trap" is essentially the story of twin girls, eleven years old, who are despondent because each one is missing one parent. When their folks got divorced while the little girls were just a few months ago, one went to live with her dad in California's Napa Valley while the other hung out with her Mom in the Belgravia section of London. The twins were quite comfortable financially, but you just can't beat the healthy, two-parent family.

The 1998 film is a re-make of the sunny 1961 comedy which starred Hayley Mills in both roles. They appeared together in various scenes then, but you could always tell that they were just one kid pasted onto the other. With special effects at the current high level, only an expert could tell that Walt Disney productions needed to pay only one salary.

The story begins as Martin (Simon Kunz), London butler to clothing designer Elizabeth James (Natasha Richardson) bids a tearful goodbye to Elizabeth's daughter, Annie (newcomer Lindsay Lohan), who is about to spend an eight-week season in a camp in Maine. Coincidentally, the twin sister she has never met, Hallie Parker, is also a camper, a girl who lives with her dad Nick (Dennis Quaid) in the Napa Valley vineyards. At first, they spot a resemblance. It takes them quite a while to compare notes and to realize that they have matching DNAs, and from that time on, they are determined to live together under one roof with both parents. They concoct a delightful plan to bring their folks together by rekindling their romance. As in all romantic comedies, the man and woman must encounter many obstacles, becoming a collective only in the final scene. The principal deterrent here is that dad is about to marry a gorgeous publicist, Meredith Blake (Elaine Hendrix), so the girls must use all their charm and cunning to get her out of the picture.

The two-hour length of the movie may signify that director Meyers--who wrote the screenplay together with Charles Shyer and David Swift--is targeting an adult audience. The movie does have an appeal to kids (it's from the sort of novel that junior high school teachers used to call a girls' story). But while the excellent Lindsay Lohan is in virtually every scene, "The Parent Trap" is really about the parents. We don't know why they broke up so soon, almost twelve years ago. After all, they enjoyed an idyllic honeymoon aboard the QE2. All we grasp is that "he made me nuts," as Elizabeth says in passing. In other words, you don't spend your life on the QE2 and re-marriage, even with yet another honeymoon on the Big Lady, is likely as not to end in divorce. We don't want to think of that possibility, though, because everyone in the film--with one exception--is so charming and bubbly. The one character we don't like is the money-grubbing publicist, Meredith, who may have a thing for Nick's physique as well, but who simply does not like kids or camping the way he does.

"The Parent Trap" is filled with comic moments: the kids play ingenious but devastating tricks on one another in camp and in a couple of cases, they give their nemesis, Meredith, enough rope to hang herself in Nick's eyes. Lisa Ann Walter and Simon Kunz are the congenial subplot, butlers of the principal adults, who mirror their bosses with their own romance. Natasha Richardson, usually known for tougher roles, is enormous appealing as the vulnerable albeit successful woman, Dennis Quaid's grin is as fetching as ever, and Lindsay Lohan turns in a striking turn with flawless British and American accents as the girl who puts her folks through an experience twice upon a time.

Copyright 1998 Harvey Karten

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