Freaky Friday’s” central gimmick — adult and child switch bodies for a day — has been used by several feature films since Disney’s 1977 film, and would seem to be played out. But a keenly updated yet faithful script and pleasing cast spark the familiar “she just doesn’t understand” theme. Thanks to director Melanie Mayron, this vidpic remake is silly and delightful but also infused with a decidedly feminist voice and ’90s sensibility.
The story, adapted by Stu Krieger, from Mary Rodgers’ book and script, returns to the Andrews family of Short Hills, N.J. This time, however, Ellen (Shelley Long) is a divorced mom who runs a teens’ clothes manufacturing biz and who is dating her partner, Bill Davidson (Alan Rosenberg).
Her daughter, Annabelle (Gaby Hoffmann), is fed up with her mother’s nagging and has your typical (perhaps too typical) teenage gripes; furthermore, she can’t understand why grownups don’t listen to her.
The switch takes place courtesy of matching talisman necklaces provided by Bill, and mother and daughter thinking the same thought simultaneously. The rest of the story unfolds smoothly as they experience life in the other’s body for a day.
Annabelle handles a big account pitch for her mom’s business (Sandra Bernhard adds a classy touch as the potential client), and Ellen deals with a junior high ruckus in which Annabelle must decide which classmate makes the swim team. The ending is pat, but surprisinglysap-free.
Long is in top form, reveling in the physical comedy — wobbling along on heels, Rollerblading and finding the perfect lock-kneed, tight-fisted stance of an outraged 13-year-old. The play between Rosenberg’s over-the-top energy and Long’s high-strung style entertains without annoying.
Hoffmann (vet of “Sleepless in Seattle” and the NBC series “Someone Like Me”) just keeps getting better.
The small part of Rachel, the quintessential high school clique master, is played full tilt by young Marla Sokoloff. Eileen Brennan as principal Handel wields the threat of detention like a pro. Other endearing cameos by Carol Kane, Kevin Krakower and Mayron round out an impressive ensemble.
Applying less physical comedy and more social examination than in the original, Mayron and producer Joan Van Horn succeed nicely in putting over “Freaky Friday” in present-day terms.