Based on a German novelette, David Swift’s The Parent Trap (1961) is a most delightful petty larceny – a light-hearted family entertainment that convincingly sells its star, Haley Mills as two people; twin sisters Sharon and Susan McKendrick. Sharon has been raised in Boston by her straight-laced mother, Margaret (Maureen O’Hara); Susan, as something of a tomboy by her outgoing father, Mitch (Brian Keith) in sunny California.
Neither girl has any idea that they have a twin living on the other side of the country until a chance meeting at summer camp leads to a fortuitous life-altering decision.The twins will switch identities – not only to experience life with the other parent they’ve never known, but in the hopes of reuniting mom and dad into one happy family once again.
One problem; Mitch is engaged to Vicki Robinson (Joanna Barnes), a ravenous fashion-plate who cannot wait to get her hands on Mitch and his money. The girls make a pack to destroy their father's relationship by making him see just how shallow and unattractive Vicki really is.
Director David Swift is quite adept at handling both the comedy and melodrama in this sincere, if lighthearted romp. There’s a remarkable weight and an emotional swell to the bittersweet first meet between Sharon and Susan at summer camp, and also, to those initial scenes where each girl meets her estranged parent for the first time since birth.
That the rest of the screenplay degenerates into fluffy lampoon and mild screwball comedy is not insurmountable to the film's overall enjoyment. Although it may be Ub Iwerks magnificent usage of the split screen process and optical printer that effectively manages to make two Haley Mills out of one on the screen, the film clings together primarily because of Mills’ masterful and convincing performances as both siblings. We believe that Haley is two separate people with conflicting personalities.
Brian Keith and Maureen O’Hara are old pros. They have genuine on screen chemistry as the feuding couple destined to get back together. Stellar performances from veteran actors, Cathleen Nesbit (as grandmother Louise), Charles Ruggles (grandpa Charles), Una Merkel (Verbena, the housekeeper) and Leo G. Carroll (Rev. Dr. Mosley) round out this charming childhood classic on a high note.
The Sherman Brothers contribute two great musical compositions to augment this tale: the chart topping teen pop hit ‘Let’s Get Together’ and the more enduring romantic ballad ‘For Now, For Always’ regrettably only heard in its truncated version at the end of the film.
WHY ISN'T THIS ON BLU-RAY YET?
Released as part of the short-lived ‘Vault Disney’ series, The Parent Trap has been remastered with less than stellar results. Although the anamorphic widescreen DVD can exhibit a rather refined image with bold vibrant colors, many scenes – particularly those in which the crude split screen technique illustrates both sisters in one shot – exhibit an excessively grainy image with muddy colors and more than a hint of pixelization.
Overall, the image is not very smooth. Age related artefacts are prevalent and occasionally distracting. The audio is a 5.1 Dolby Digital remix, exhibiting a strident sonic characteristic. Extras include a detailed ‘making of’ documentary with interviews from surviving cast and crew, isolated music tracks, short subjects and vintage featurettes.
FILM RATING (out of 5 - 5 being the best)