Den of the Cyphered Wolf

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Movie Review: Parent Traps

When I was a kid I loved the Disney Channel. Back when it was cool. Raise your hand if you remember The Famous Jett Jackson.

 How about So Weird.

Screw all you Zach and Cody loving ... wait what was my point again. Oh yeah, back in the day Disney was one of my big three along with Nick and Cartoon Network.  Wholesome family entertainment that actually was entertainment. And a movie they would always show on the weekends was The Parent Trap and it's sequels.

For some odd reason I've feeling all nostalgic and have decided to compare The Parent Trap, it's official  remake and what I always considered to be it's unofficial remake.

The Gist

For those of you living under a rock, the basic story goes like this. Two teenage girls who look identical meet each other in summer camp, where they find out they're identical twins, whose parents divorced when they were babies. They hatch a zany scheme to meet the other parent by switching places on the way home. While switched they find out the dad is remarrying and decide to get him back together with his exwife before he can get hitched.

The Original  (1961)

The Parent Trap (1961) on Disney Video

Okay this going to be more of a straight review than comparison. The benefit of being first. While the original has it's charm, it shows it's age. Namely it does something that a lot of movies do from back then that I hate. The music won't shut up. It's loud and it's detracting. But I'll forgive that because that was the style. Other than that. The script is a bit of a roller coaster.

What I always found funny about The Parent Trap was the situation itself. The awkwardness of it all. When the script plays that straight it's very charming. For instance the scene where Mitch, the father is trying to explain the wackiness to his house guests, or where the grandfather overhears the twins calling each other and puts two and two together.

When the movie tries to be funny such as the mountain lion clapping it's not really. All of that stuff seems inorganic and detracts from the more organic situational comedy. The key to making them laugh is to make it seem like you're not trying to.

Beyond that that Hayley Mills is great. I've seen a lot of shows where one actor has to play two lookalikes and generally the writers make the two characters have wildly different personalities so the audience doesn't get confused. The twins are different, but subtly so, and that helps the artifice of facsimile.  It helps me feel like I'm not watching something following a script.

By the way it was mostly this movie that created the technique for doing it. Academy for film editing goes to.

Okay all that said there are a lot of elements of the plot that don't make sense. Half the third act could have been avoided if Maggie, the mother, had just picked up a telephone before heading to Cali. Also a lot of the plot seems sociopathic. While I don't approve of hitting kids, they put Vickie the prospective fiance through hell. There's a line between being mischievous and being assholes. That bear thing could have gotten her seriously hurt.  Not to mention the water thing, which could have gotten her killed. 

It Takes Two (1995)

Alright this is my favorite of what I call the Olsen Cannon. Rather than banking on the fact that the two were cute this one actually had decent production values and a script. I could be wrong but I believe this was their first theatrical film. Yeah when I was a kid I watched their stuff. 

While not an official remake it is an blatant ripoff of The Parent Trap, but I always thought of it as a good movie. 

Anyway the main plot difference here is that rather than twins these two are identical strangers.  Apart from the suspension of disbelief of that fact that the two aren't siblings (which the audience knows they are) the choice actually makes the film more believable. I never really bought into the idea that the parents would never mention the fact that they had a twin somewhere out there. That seems like one of those important talks. Hunny could you sit down for a sec. I get why the parents would want some distance but hey, why not give the kid an address to send letters to.

Also in the original it always seemed like the whole deal was set up because the kids were being selfish pricks. Here it seems like they honestly feel like the two love interests are the best for each other.

A thing that helps this is that the movie makes it obvious that both are looking and damn near desperate for a beau. If this sort of thing happened to me in real life I would be pretty pissed but what would calm me down is, "The kids were just trying to help." Here more than the original that seems to be the case. Furthermore when the adults get let in on the wacky plot there is very little if any collusion on the set-up. The priority is getting the kids back with the right adult.

Beyond that, in this version the fiance is... well a bitch. Not just sort of grating or kind of a gold-digger. A grade a full on bitch.  Like I said earlier, in the original I always thought that everyone was a little unfair to her. In the original there was a conspiracy to break up her relationship, so her being a bit paranoid was warranted. Here the dislike is completely and totally justified. She is a shallow, manipulative, selfish, narcissistic human being. And when she breaks it feels a lot less justified.

Unlike the original this one seems to lend just about equal time to the adult romance and the kids' wacky hi-jinks. And the leads, Kristie Alley and Steve Guttenberg, have real onscreen chemistry. The romance doesn't come from long staring into each others' eyes or an orchestral swell, but how they talk to each other. I disliked the ending of the original where bam, they're back in love, after arguing for most of the movie. 

Also because the movie more or less remains at camp until the third act the plot seems less stupid on the "twins" part. They never leave New York. Reversing the switch should have in theory taken a 20 minute walk, but movies run on Murphy's Law

All of this comes together to make the movie feel more realistic.

Apart from that the movie has excellent dialogue.  Everyone in the movie without a Y chromosome and even some the ones who do get great zingers that never feel forced. 

Moreover I love kid movies that show kids actually acting like kids. Not how adults think kids act, but how kids actually act and this is one of those. The movie opens with Alley breaking up a street baseball game, and the switch happening unintentionally on a dare to ring the door bell.

The Remake (1998)

There's a lack of subtly in the filming choices.  For instance in the original when the girls first meet each other it's not made a big deal that they look alike other than being the original reason why the girls don't like each other. Mostly there is just a throw away line, "That girl has your face." Here they stop a couple of seconds to focus on the resemblance.  The film  does that a couple of times. It's suppose to be sentimental, but it's like the music never shutting up in the original. Speaking of which, while not as bad as in the original this one has a soundtrack that won't shut up either.  I've gotten two used to Wire levels of diegetic music. In that show music doesn't play unless there is literally a reason for it to play.

That said one area where I like that the film is sentimental is that more so than the original it gets the fact that these people haven't been around each other for a very long time, and to an extent don't, but want to get to know each other. This time it's not just about maintaining the subterfuge, but getting to know the folks.

Also the acting is a little better. It's weird. Some of the lines are the exact same and scenes are the exact same but better. For instance when one of the girls get back to Cali she talks with the housekeeper about her dad's fiance, but this time it's more of an actual conversation, rather than an unfunny gag. "Not one word. Not one word... (a bazillion words)". Also the "You'll ruin everything" scene is shorter and more realistic. Rather than a full on destructive tantrum it's a quick line and exit, which gets across better how exasperated the twin in question is.  

It also fixes some of the narrative problems. The reason why the mother doesn't call the father is that the twin in her company said she already did. 

Remember that thing I said  about the original about subtle yet different personalities. Well that's gone. While it was the same way in It Takes Two, (It made sense there because it also had a Prince And The Pauper thing going for it.) We've got girly girl and tomboy, which I generally hate because it creates the implication that those are the only two personalty types and traits women possess.

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