After the hysteria that was Haley Mills in the 1960s had cooled, the Disney Studios began actively searching for her teenage successor to ensure and carry forth their lucrative box office into the 1970s. They found their heir apparent in the embodiment of tomboyish, Jodie Foster – an undeniably gifted child star who was later to make an even greater impact in films as an adult.
In Gary Nelson’s inspired Freaky Friday (1976), Foster is Annabelle Andrews a belligerent, though loveable, teen who cannot wait to grow up. The film is classic wholesome good-natured fun from the Disney stables and it unequivocally proves that no gutless remake starring Lindsay Lohan was required.
As a ‘coming of age’ flick, Freaky Friday examines the trials and tribulations that both ‘parents with teenagers’ and ‘teenagers with parents’ undoubtedly find quite humorous and exacerbating at varying intervals but without ever appearing to be condescendingly smug.
Annabelle envisions that her mother, Ellen (Barbara Harris) lives a life of leisure and luxury and as such, she longs for the opportunity to revel in what she misperceives as pampered adulthood. School is a drag/life’s a ball…or so it seems.
Likewise, Ellen can’t understand why her daughter complains so much about being a teenager. After all, the life of a teen is carefree, effortless and one big party – minus romantic angst, pimples and chronic self doubt of course. Both women get a reality check when a ‘freak’ accident transposes their brain matter into the other’s body, thus affording mother and daughter the experience of living each other’s life for one catastrophically hilarious day.
At first Ellen is enjoying herself immensely. She takes Annabelle’s body to the spa, has her nails and hair done in a more feminine style and indulges in some minor playful flirtation with Annabelle’s soon to be boyfriend. Unfortunately Annabelle is not having nearly so easy a time pretending to be her mother, much to the chagrin and confusion of her father/husband – Bill (John Astin).
Eventually, both women realize that they are glad of their situation and stature in life and long for their respective bodies back. They come away from the experience with a new found respect and understanding for one another that strengthens their mother/daughter bond. Dick Van Patten and Ruth Buzzi costar.
Walt Disney Home Video has given us a very clean and anamorphically enhanced DVD. Despite the fact that the 70s were not known for their resilient or vibrant color film stocks, colors on this DVD are eye-popping, rich, vibrant and bold. Age related artifacts are a rarity.Matte process shots are a tad worse for the wear than the rest of film, though only marginally so. Contrast and black levels are solid.
Overall, the picture has a very smooth characteristic that is easy on the eyes. The audio is mono and somewhat strident but, at a moderate listening level, quite acceptable. Extras include a very brief featurette in which the usually absent Ms. Foster waxes rather affectionately about her Disney days. Recommended.
FILM RATING (out of 5 - 5 being the best)