'Parent Trap' almost a twin Review: Disney's remake of '60s romp is faithful to original, likely to a fault.

July 29, 1998|By Chris Kaltenbach | Chris Kaltenbach,SUN STAFF

Disney should find out just how bankable nostalgia is with "The Parent Trap," a film that comes across as nothing if not caught in a time warp.

Which should come as no surprise, since it's a pretty faithful remake of the 1961 Disney film that made a star of Hayley Mills, playing twins inadvertently reunited at summer camp who then connive to reunite their parents. This go-round, it's newcomer Lindsay Lohan playing the twins.

Parents who remember "The Parent Trap" fondly -- and there are plenty of them -- will find plenty to like about this amiable descendant, which comes complete with knowing winks at both the original film (remember Mills and her guitar?) and the '60s (a too-cute re-creation of the Beatles' "Abbey Road" cover). The question is, will their kids feel the same?

Lohan is both Hallie Parker and Annie James, twins who never knew the other existed -- their parents separated soon after they were born, Hallie settling in the Napa Valley with their rich dad (Dennis Quaid), Annie ending up in London with their fashion-designer mom (Natasha Richardson).

The camp meeting doesn't go well at first, since both girls assume the other is just an irritating lookalike. But after a series of pranks land them in the "isolation cabin," they begin to warm to each other's company. Soon, talk turns to moms and dads; before long, the girls have figured things out and decided there's only one thing to do: bring their parents back together.

So they secretly switch places, Hallie jetting back to London, Annie setting off for Napa. Eventually, the ruse is uncovered and the family is reunited, but then the real complication sets in: dad is about to get remarried, to a blond jet-setter who's decidedly not fond of his precocious young daughter.

Quaid and Richardson are winning -- especially Quaid, whose trademark grin has never been used to more wholesome effect. Even better are Simon Kunz as Annie's butler and Lisa Ann Walter as Hallie's nanny (it's nice to see Walter in a better showcase than her failed sitcom from two seasons ago, "Life's Work").

Lohan is undeniably cute, with her beautiful red hair and winsome freckles, and she manages a convincing British accent. But her expressions are rarely able to move beyond smug satisfaction or barely contained joy; better guidance from director Nancy Meyers might have helped.

The film tends to come across as less a remake than a tribute; there's little to say this film was made in the '90s, as opposed to the '60s (save for a fax machine and a trip on the Concorde). That extends to the film's social setting, as well: would it have killed Disney to have some African-American children enrolled at the camp?

Still, "The Parent Trap" is enjoyable family fodder during a summer where the best Hollywood can do otherwise is brain-dead blow-'em-ups like "Armageddon" and "Deep Impact" -- films I'll wager no one is going to remember fondly when they grow up.

The Parent Trap

Directed by Nancy Meyers

Starring Natasha Richardson, Dennis Quaid and Lindsay Lohan

Released by Disney

Rated PG (mild mischief)

Running time 124 minutes

Sun score: ** 1/2

* = poor

** = fair

*** = good

**** = excellent

Pub Date: 7/29/98

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