Aah, Walt Disney, what an odd empire. Both a magical world cherished by children and a despicable example of capitalism gone mad. But you can’t deny that their thirtysomething self-proclaimed “animation masterpieces” are exceptional family entertainment. Of course, their live action division is not as memorable, but once in a while, they do produce a film that’s not too predictable, not too corny and not too childish. “The Parent Trap” is one of them. It’s not a masterpiece, but it’s an enjoyable little film. It’s rather well made, the cast is good and even the story is interesting. The movies is about a couple who split up just after the wife gives birth to twins. The parents make a compromise to keep one girl each, and they more or less forget about all this. Almost 12 years down the line, the father, played sympathetically by Dennis Quaid, has become a rich vineyard owner. He lives with his daughter Hallie in California. The beautiful Natasha Richardson plays his ex, a successful fashion designer specialized in wedding dresses who has settled in London with her daughter Annie. And then one summer, Mom decides to send Annie to a camp in America where, ohmigod ! Dad has already sent Hallie!
So the two twin sisters finally meet and, naively, they think it’s just a coincidence. They don’t even get along at first, and after one too many exchange of pranks, they’re punished and sent to the “isolation cabin”. That’s where they realize that why, they’re sisters! They almost immediately start planning a con to get their parents back together. They’ll change places for a while, hence getting to know the parent they never known, and then they’ll tell about what they’ve done, forcing their parents to meet face-to-face again after all these years to make the exchange! So Hallie meets her mom, as well as her devoted butler Martin and her grandpa (who at one point grabs her prepubescent ass!). At the same time, Annie gets to know her father, his own helping lady and the family’s dog… as well as aargh, Daddy’s girlfriend! She’s a greedy blond bimbo who doesn’t like children, the bitch!
You might have guessed that Annie and Hallie will then spend the rest of the film trying to get that slut out of the picture and reunite their parents. That’s not the most strikingly original plot (the film’s actually a remake), but it’s executed with enough good humor to make it work. The twins are both played by newcomer Lindsay Lohan, a perky, charming, dare I say real cute redhead. She has the enthusiasm necessary to make bearable the movie’s series of tired, wholesome gags (a lizard in the fiancÃ©e’s mouth? heh heh… I didn’t see that one coming…). But the film’s biggest treat is that the old flame between Richardson and Quaid. The filmmakers (power couple Nancy Meyers and Charles Shyer) made the good decision not to downsize the love story and focus only on the kids’ hijinks. In fact, the scenes between the two are mature and romantic, and gives the film a certain depth rare in family movies. You probably won’t be missing out if you don’t see this film but if you do, you’ll spend a pleasant time.