First Time Unlucky Too

Jodie Foster as ‘Annabel Andrews’ and Barbara Harris as ‘Ellen Andrews’ in “Freaky Friday” (1976)I distinctly remember reading the original Freaky Friday novel back when I was still in single digits, but can’t remember if I ever got around to watching the first movie adaptation before yesterday or not. I’ve already written about the 1995 TV-movie (starring Gaby Hoffmann and Shelley Long), and have the 2003 version (starring Lindsay Lohan and Jamie Lee Curtis) on DVD somewhere, so it was nice to finally be able to complete the hat-trick.

For those who don’t know, this 1976 Disney comedy stars Jodie Foster as ‘Annabel Andrews’, a scruffy tomboy who is sick of being nagged by her primped-and-proper mother, ‘Ellen Andrews’, played by Barbara Harris. Their respective kvetching eventually reaches boiling point, and the universe decides to slap them both in the face with a short, sharp lesson in empathy by magically switching their bodies, so that they literally have to walk in each other’s shoes for a day. In the 2003 version, this switch is caused by a magical fortune cookie… whereas here, it simply happens because they both say “I wish I could switch places with her!” at the exact same moment. Meh. I’m sure fans could argue over which iteration is “best” from now until Uncle Walt’s head thaws out, but I’m casting my vote for the Lohan version, mainly because they swapped out all of this movie’s forced wackiness and over-the-top cartoony stunts for a more down-to-earth story with some actual emotional grit to it. I guess that’s the difference between a kiddie comedy and a teen comedy…?

Jodie Foster as ‘Annabel Andrews’ and Barbara Harris as ‘Ellen Andrews’ in “Freaky Friday” (1976)That said, I did enjoy the performances here… Foster is entirely convincing as a disapproving adult trapped in a young girl’s body, reluctantly enduring the childishness around her, and Harris is hilarious as her gleefully juvenile “elder”… although I suspect that if someone watched her scenes out of context, they’d just assume that her character was a drunk… especially when she starts flirting with the teenage boy living across the street! Incidentally, the scene introducing Annabel’s lanky love-interest, ‘Boris’ (Marc McClure), is eerily similar to the scene introducing Michael Cera’s character in Juno… although I couldn’t say for sure whether that was an intentional homage, pure coincidence, or just my tired brain playing tricks on me. Meanwhile, the “chauvinist pig” patriarch of the family, ‘William Andrews’ is played by the mighty, mighty John Astin, and it’s always a pleasure to see him do his thing. I’m glad that the movie comments on his sexism, via Annabel’s appalled reaction to the way he casually piles extra chores onto his wife’s plate throughout the day… it’s just a shame he doesn’t receive any sort of cosmic comeuppance, besides a light dunking. I was also disappointed by the regressive message concerning Annabel’s appearance… she’s clearly a popular, socially confident girl, and the lynchpin of several school sporting teams, with no shortage of male admirers, yet her mother still feels the need to gussy her up with a new hair-do and “girlier” clothes after hijacking her body for the afternoon. Boo to her! If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, lady.

Fun afternoon discussion topic for families: Why does Mr. Andrews grin lewdly every time his wife accidentally calls him “Daddy”? Hmmm…

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About deecrowseer

A comic book writer with an interest in feminism, philosophy, and affirmative action.
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