10/06/2018

DVD Review: Freaky Friday (2018)


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At a crossroads in their relationship, a mother (Heidi Blickenstaff) and her teenage daughter (Cozi Zuehlsdorff) magically switch places in this, the fourth adaptation of the timeless 1972 children's book Freaky Friday by Mary Rodgers.

From the 1976 Disney classic with Jodie Foster and Barbara Harris (and its well-received 2003 remake starring Jamie Lee Curtis and Lindsay Lohan) to the 1995 small screen cult favorite featuring Shelley Long and Gabby Hoffmann, while the other three Freaky Friday movies played things relatively safely, this translation decided to swing for the creative fences.


Based not only on the Rodgers classic and its previous film incarnations but also the 2016 Disney stage musical Freaky Friday, which was written by Bridget Carpenter (who also scripted this version) as well as music and lyrics by Pulitzer Prize winners Tom Kitt and Brian Yorkey, the Disney Channel's newest original movie is arriving on disc just one month after its premiere.

Heightening the emotional disagreements between the two women with the film's at times epically staged musical numbers, the over caffeinated energy and fast pacing also helps disguise the fact that, with so much going on, Friday is far too chaotic for its own good.

Namely, it's that rarest of occasions when a film suffers not from not enough but rather too much plot, especially given its mere ninety minute running time vs. the length of the original theatrical production.


In addition to the main storyline where the two swap bodies after breaking a collectible hourglass given to them by the family's late husband and father on one of the most challenging days of their lives, the film opts to supersize the action even more.

Having mortgaged their home to start her own catering business, hardworking Katherine Blake (played by Blickenstaff, who originated the role onstage) is being shadowed by a bridal magazine for a cover story about her wedding she planned entirely on her own to the ever supportive Mike (Alex D├ęsert) that's scheduled for the very next day.

Like mother like daughter, Carpenter opts to see and raise the stakes when it comes to Katherine's daughter Ellie's (Zuehlsdorff) plotline as well.


A dramatic sixteen year old sophomore, Ellie is eager to win a competition called The Hunt (which seems to be a cross between a scavenger hunt and the "dare" side of Truth or Dare) in order to, as she explains, "break free of the draconian caste system" of high school.

Set on it, she promises her two best friends that she'll be able to change her mom's mind about the no holds barred overnight game scheduled on the very same night of her mom's rehearsal dinner.

Worried about more than just the game (which turns out to be one of the weakest parts of the film in terms of plot), just like her mom, Ellie's dealing with challenges all her own.


From a younger brother who never fails to get on her nerves (Jason Maybaum) to concerns that Mike is trying to replace her father, as well as an adorably awkward crush on Adam (Ricky He), and the very real possibility that she might fail tenth grade if she's absent one more day, once the switch occurs and these plots collide, things get both increasingly convoluted and confusing.

While some of these plot points wind up making very little sense by the end of Friday and it suffers from an offbeat tone including occasional and out-of-character moments of scatological humor that don't fit in with the rest of the movie, thankfully the film's jubilant choreography (by John Carrafa) and infectious musical numbers distract us enough from having to make heads or tails of it all.

Needless to say, it's a lot for what some might assume is a "little" movie and as over ambitious beats under any day of the week, a great deal of credit is owed to Friday director Steve Carr for its success.


A former music video director and Def Jam album designer turned Paul Blart: Mall Cop helmer, in the film's bravura wedding sequence, Carr seems to be auditioning to direct Mamma Mia 3.

Though hinging the entire film on a weak hourglass gimmick wasn't perhaps the best way for the two to switch places in 2018, Freaky is still sure to delight those willing to look past the film's house of cards like myriad of plot problems that feel like they could collapse at any moment under Friday's weight.


While complexity doesn't seem to appeal as well to fans of simple but fun Disney Channel original movie musicals like The Teen Beach Movie or High School Musical, between this and Disney's Zombies, it's nice to see them try to branch out to works that deal – however briefly – with topical issues ranging from mortgages to remarriage after loss of a parent in Friday.

And even though there's no replacing the original Freaky feature with Jodie Foster, with this movie's first burst of music and lyrics, you realize that – like mother and daughter – they're different yet similar enough to appreciate on their own.


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