The Parent Trap (1998)
March 26, 2022 10:46 PM - Subscribe

Identical twins Annie and Hallie, separated at birth and each raised by one of their biological parents, later discover each other for the first time at summer camp and make a plan to bring their wayward parents back together.

In this update of a 1961 film, twins Annie and Hallie (Lindsay Lohan) are strangers until happenstance unites them. The preteen girls' divorced parents, Nick (Dennis Quaid) and Elizabeth (Natasha Richardson), are living on opposite sides of the Atlantic, each with one child. After meeting at camp, American Hallie and British-raised Annie engineer an identity swap, giving both the chance to spend time with the parent they've missed. If the scheme works, it might just make the family whole again.

Ruthe Stein: When the girls (both played by Lindsay Lohan) wind up at the same camp 11 years later, it takes them forever to figure out they're twins even though they look exactly alike. They come across as dumb and dumber, which doesn't jibe with how smart they are later about plotting to bring their folks together.

Ignoring these lapses in logic, "The Parent Trap" is hugely enter taining and more relevant than most family entertainment. With divorce rates so high, this remake of the 1961 Hayley Mills film of the same name is more poignant than the original. It may encourage a common fantasy among children of divorce: that their parents will reunite.

Current technology allows Lohan to be in two places at once a lot more easily than Mills was. But Lohan doesn't get by on technical wizardry alone. She uses her considerable acting skills as well as facility with accents (Gwyneth Paltrow should sound so English) to create distinct personalities for the twins.

Roger Ebert: A movie like this has to cover a lot of ground, in several different locations. That's why good casting is so important. There's not time to establish the characters carefully, so they have to bring their personalities along with them almost from the first shot. Quaid is instantly likable, with that goofy smile. Richardson, who almost always plays tougher roles and harder women, this time is astonishing, she's so warm and attractive. The two of them have a conversation over an old bottle of wine, and, yes, it's cornball--but quality cornball, earning its sentiment.

Movies like this remember how much fun escapism can be. The film opens with Quaid and Richardson falling in love on the QE2 and being married mid-Atlantic. The film includes the kind of summer camp where when the kids play pranks, it looks like they had the help of a platoon of art directors and special-effects coordinators. And of course both parents live in great houses: Richardson in a London town house with sweeping staircases and Architectural Digest interiors, Quaid in a Napa ranch home with a shaded veranda.

The key task is to make the double photography of the "twins'' work. All kinds of tricks are used, and of course the techniques are more advanced than they were in 1961, but since you can't see them anyway, you forget about them. Lindsay Lohan has command of flawless British and American accents, and also uses slightly flawed ones for when the girls are playing each other. What she has all the time is the same kind of sunny charm Hayley Mills projected, and a sense of mischief that makes us halfway believe in the twins' scheme.

Lisa Schwarzbaum: These modernizing touches aside, ”The Parent Trap” (Walt Disney) remains substantially true to writer-director David Swift’s original, enduringly enchanting 1961 Disney production starring Hayley Mills in the dual roles that extended her Pollyanna fame (and made her an early feminist role model for girls). And in not messing with a sure thing when they’ve won the right to remake it, director Nancy Meyers and producer/husband Charles Shyer deserve the gratitude of generations of Hayley-holics, all of us capable of bursting into a chorus of ”Let’s Get Together” at the slightest provocation. Meyers and Shyer — specialists in bedtime stories for divorce-prone boomers (”Irreconcilable Differences,” ”Father of the Bride”) — also demonstrate their savvy about what the market will bear: While not as potent as the yeah-yeah-yeah original (which came out when unscandalous, everyday divorce was still a movie novelty), it’s no small feat that this kindhearted remake is as graceful as it is, an homage as well as an update for an era of even more split families, and more fervent children’s wishes for the magical ability to make things whole.

Quaid and Richardson contribute midrange movie-star appeal. Hendrix wins a good-sportsmanship award for playing the humiliated, aggressive single woman. But responsibility for making this Trap tender rests heaviest on the bird-size shoulders of auburn-haired, freckle-faced Lohan, now 11, who won the unenviable job of making us forget about Hayley Mills — at least temporarily. The natural, pleasurable 1990s hipness this newcomer brings to her assignment is therefore all the more impressive. Hayley-holics should be grateful to this new girl at camp too.

posted by Carillon (16 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Just rewatched it recently and thought it held up pretty well! I never can tell when I revisit movies from my childhood, but thought this was great. Lindsay Lohan really kills it as an actor, she did a great job and you can see some amazing potential.

One thing unexamined (which yeah), is just how fucking wealthy the parents come across. I'm not sure if I realized it or if it was just accepted at the time, but hot damn it was probably the biggest thing that stuck with me on rewatch.
posted by Carillon at 10:50 PM on March 26, 2022 [4 favorites]

One thing unexamined (which yeah), is just how fucking wealthy the parents come across.

You mean everyone can't just grab a couple of last minute tickets on the Concorde after having presumably chartered a plane from your tiny regional airport to the nearest connector?
posted by madajb at 11:31 PM on March 26, 2022

Yeah and the owning of a vineyard, and the 3(?) story house in London that's HUGE. Oh and he bought all the bottles of their special vintage. Oh and they're isolated enough that Elizabeth James is blinkered enough to say to her valet that he's just a brother who happens to wait on them.

Haha yes apparently I did have more to say.

I think it helps that it's from the kid's point of view so that while lavish and crazy it's not a huge problem that they haven't noticed yet, being all of 11.
posted by Carillon at 11:48 PM on March 26, 2022 [1 favorite]

Yeah, this movie is insanely charming. Disney really captured some of that old live action kid movie magic they had back in the 1960's.
posted by AlonzoMosleyFBI at 6:03 AM on March 27, 2022

When the girls (both played by Lindsay Lohan) wind up at the same camp 11 years later, it takes them forever to figure out they're twins even though they look exactly alike.

When I play "Two Truths and a Lie" I like to relate the story that when I went to camp when I was around 10 years old I met a girl the same age as I was who looked so much like me (as commented to both of us frequently during that week) that the two of were able to switch clothes and easily convince our fellow campers we were each other and it never crossed my mind that we were somehow twins separated at birth, even though I was a huge fan of the original Parent Trap when I was a kid. I think when kids are still pre-pubescent they have kind of squishy faces and tend to look more alike if they share broad features - in our case, white girls, mousy brown hair, blue eyes.

Weirdly, although at the time of camp this girl lived quite a ways away from me (though in the same province) and I didn't keep in touch with her after camp, she somehow ended up going to my high school. In Grade 11 when she showed up the name twinged a distant memory and I had to ask her the VERY weird question of whether she met her "twin" at summer camp when she was 10. As it happened, she had! We looked very different from each other by that point. Life is weird.

Unsurprisingly, people usually guess that story to be the lie. Go figure.
posted by urbanlenny at 9:16 AM on March 27, 2022 [10 favorites]

I recently rewatched this too and I enjoyed it. It kept a lot of charm in and I really felt like that parent-hunger for the absent parent rang true. Perhaps especially in the 90s but for me again.
posted by warriorqueen at 9:51 AM on March 27, 2022

It's been ages but I have watched this move many times. Quality cornball indeed!
Also yes to the very wealthy thing. Prefer there was less of that? Yes. Oh well.
posted by Glinn at 10:27 AM on March 27, 2022

Nancy Meyers is famous for doing the casual wealth + amazing homes thing in pretty much every movie, and wow did she ever do it in this one!
posted by mochapickle at 12:00 PM on March 27, 2022 [2 favorites]

TPT is one of my guilty pleasures. It's just a really well made 90s flick that I can sit down and enjoy whenever it's on TV. Dennis and Natasha are perfect as the parents. And Lindsay is adorable. TPT also benefits from the fact that my favorite scene is the end. So I have to wait for it. :D
posted by Stuka at 3:08 PM on March 27, 2022 [1 favorite]

Lindsay Lohan really kills it as an actor, she did a great job and you can see some amazing potential.

Pretty much everything she did up to, and including, Mean Girls is like that. Such a strong, natural talent at work.
posted by Thorzdad at 3:46 PM on March 27, 2022 [1 favorite]

Lindsay Lohan has command of flawless British and American accents, and also uses slightly flawed ones for when the girls are playing each other.

This. I remember being super impressed by this when I saw the movie on the teev. Lohan actually sounds like a british person faking an american accent, which, considering the actress is already faking a british accent, is just Streepian levels of accent shenanigans.
posted by Sparx at 4:26 PM on March 27, 2022 [5 favorites]

I adore this movie, even now as an adult who is horrified at the idea that a parent would completely abandon one of their own children.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 6:44 AM on March 28, 2022 [3 favorites]

Lindsay Lohan has command of flawless British and American accents, and also uses slightly flawed ones for when the girls are playing each other.

Is it my imagination or is she potentially deliberately adopting Hayley Mills's accent in her British accent? The pacing and breathiness of her speech as Annie is uncannily like Hayley Mills as Sharon (the east coast twin) in the original. It's also amazing how much of the original movie's lines are kept while updating the script.
posted by urbanlenny at 8:51 AM on March 28, 2022 [1 favorite]

This is one of the those movies I would always stop to watch if it was on TV, and which I never see now that I don't watch live TV anymore. It's very easy to just slide into watching it at any point in the movie.
posted by jacquilynne at 1:21 PM on March 28, 2022 [1 favorite]

I remember being so entranced by this movie's promotional materials (when I was in school) that one of my nightly activities (since the dialup won't hog the phone lines then) was to painstakingly download the realplayer or mov files to watch the SFX and the twins in action.

Such career-making role(s) too, and because I'm roughly in her age cohort, her career trajectory really was a cultural touchstone and any rewatch of this movie becomes bittersweet.
posted by cendawanita at 10:17 PM on March 29, 2022 [1 favorite]

jacquilynne I came in here to say this exact thing. Multiple times in university my housemates walked in at random hours of the day to find me on the couch watching The Parent Trap. I'll never NOT stop flipping channels to watch the rest of it if it's on and it's great no matter where you jump in. It's a masterpiece.
posted by potrzebie at 11:23 PM on April 1, 2022 [1 favorite]

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