The Parent Trap (a remake of the 1961 film of the same name) is one of those flicks that I, as a child, would always find on some random TV channel, yet never really got around to watching it. It’s perhaps most famous for putting Lindsay Lohan on the map, as she plays two estranged twin girls with divorced parents who find each other by sheer coincidence at summer camp. The rest of the movie focuses on their heedless attempts to get their parents back together, with typical Disney-style subplots and supporting characters along the way. I was surprised to find that I enjoyed it quite a lot, certainly enough to want to watch it again on a lazy day. I also didn’t know before that it was directed by a woman – specifically, Nancy Meyers, who would go on to direct romantic comedies such as Something’s Gotta Give and It’s Complicated. With a female perspective place on the narrative, I felt a genuine sense of sisterly companionship that I felt was a really nice touch, especially considering its target audience.
I’m not quite sure what I expected with Lohan’s performance, but she does a tremendous job in juggling two different roles in distinct, convincing ways. Despite the massive flip-flopping around that occurred as events of the film unfolded, I was never confused as to which twin was which. She was able to handle both unique personalities (the tomboyish American and the proper Brit) with such grace and believability. Most importantly, her characters really felt like individuals that I think young girls could really draw their attention to and admire in constructive, positive ways.
Another performance worth noting is that of Natasha Richardson, who is so unexpectedly funny in many place, but also heart-warming and sympathetic in others. While Lisa Ann Walter and Simon Kunz played mostly minor supporting characters within the thread of the story, their characters were pleasantly charming and they made their small parts rather enjoyable. There were, however, areas where I think the movie suffered to an unfortunate degree. In essence, the entire final third seemed to fall apart in its efforts to project a certain unneeded “evil stepmother” trope into the story. Elaine Hendrix wasn’t exactly horrible, but the material she was given was so ridiculously limiting and gave off a saddening impression of her absolutely annoying, unconvincing character.
Truthfully, I would much prefer if the first third of the film – detailing the girls’ time at summer camp and their discovery of each others’ existence – take up a larger bulk of the film. It was so nice to see these rare moments of solidarity and friendship between young girls, sharing important mundane moments like fencing and eating Oreos with peanut butter. Instead, we’re left with a larger chunk of the film’s latter parts that just seem to meander aimlessly, hoping it will hit a mark somewhere. In some ways, however, it absolutely does; quite a few moments even left me a bit teary-eyed (though perhaps the two glasses of wine I drank during the viewing are to blame). As a Disney film, however, the representation of its female protagonists are surprisingly strong and, thus, really quite charming. The fact that they really feel like eleven-year-old girls is probably most important of all; I’m happy that such models exist for any and all possible young female viewers.