"Freaky Friday" is the latest update of Mary Rodgers's beloved 1972 children's book in which a mother and daughter exchange bodies for a day. Jodie Foster and Barbara Harris played the parts in the 1976 Disney movie. In this Disney remake, Lindsay Lohan is 15-year-old Anna Coleman, a surly high-school student and garage-band guitarist; Jamie Lee Curtis is her widowed mom, Tess, a stressed-out, multitasking psychologist on the verge of remarriage.
When an ancient Chinese hex kicks in, they wake to discover how devastatingly unprepared they are to live each other's life. Tess, in her daughter's body, is hopeless at both guitar and algebra; Anna, horrified to find herself wearing her mom's middle-aged face, is inept at comforting Tess's neurotic patients. (When in doubt, Tess advises her, just say, "But how do you feel about that?") More ambiguous complications arise when Jake (Chad Michael Murray) the motorcycle-riding heartthrob Anna swoons for, falls for Anna's soul after all. Unfortunately, that's her mother's body he's seducing.
Screenwriters Heather Hach and Leslie Dixon have devised some lovely and hilarious variations on Rodgers's irresistible premise. Wisely, neither they nor director Mark Waters ("The House of Yes") push the farce too hard. This being a family movie--and one of the rare ones adults will find as captivating as kids will--they carefully avoid the darker and more daring possibilities; thus the romantic tangle is untwisted with somewhat unconvincing ease.
But the most startling metamorphosis is Curtis's transformation from fading horror-flick queen to dazzling comedienne. She goes on a teenage tear--tormenting Anna's younger brother (who wonders why Mom's acting so weird), getting down and dirty on a TV talk show where Tess is supposed to discuss her book on aging--with fiercely funny conviction. Lohan holds her own, registering prim parental disapproval from within the pierced body of a hormonal high-school girl. Mother and daughter each come to see the other with new and more generous eyes. No surprise, but their predictable reconciliation managed to choke up a fully grown movie critic. Then again, maybe it's only adults who'll get teary-eyed--kids just wanna have fun. And they will.