Freaky Friday is certainly one of the most offbeat films Walt Disney Productions has ever made, but it isn’t one of the best. A promising concept – quarreling mother and teenage daughter switch personalities for a day – has been bungled by a talky, repetitive screenplay and overbroad direction. Barbara Harris and Jodie Foster salvage some scenes through sheer behavioral charm.
Mary Rodgers’ screenplay, adapted from her 1972 book, touches more directly on modern social mores, particularly on women’s lib issues, than is common for the studio. And pic has some eyebrow-raising Freudian undertones of the type which Disney pix usually avoid or suppress.
Foster is a normally unkempt and tomboyish prepubescent teen. She hates her mother (Harris) and worships her father (John Astin), a cardboard go-getter type. Both Harris and Foster reveal desires to escape their situations, and presto, they switch personalities while their bodies go about the usual daily routine.
The film’s sexual undertones are mostly hidden beneath the continual barrage of sight gags, but they are there nonetheless. This is Disney’s version of Lolita. Astin gets turned on when Harris starts calling him ‘daddy,’ and Foster gets furiously jealous when she encounters her father’s curvaceous secretary. The film is a mine field of double meanings.