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Freaky Friday
1976 - G - 95 Mins.
Director: Gary Nelson
Written By: Mary Rodgers
Starring: Jodie Foster, Barbara Harris, John Astin, Dick Van Patten, Patsy Kelly
Review by: John Ulmer
   
Body swap movies must be fun to make. Fred Savage and Judge Reinhold must have had a lot of fun in "Vice Versa" (1988). Jamie Lee Curtis and Lindsay Lohan must have in "Freaky Friday" (2003), too. The original "Freaky Friday," though, doesn't seem very fun at all, and I'd be surprised to find that the two lead actresses -- Barbara Harris and Jodie Foster -- had any fun whatsoever making it.

Foster is on cruise control as Annabel, a tomboy youth growing up in suburban America during the mid-70s. I expected to see the Brady Bunch next door, walking outside and waving at Annabelle as she got ready to go to school.

Annabel's mother (Harris) is a stay-at-home mom with a lazy husband. She's envys her daughter, who in turn envys her, and as the two simultaneously wish to swap places, a freak accident occurs and they do, in fact, swap places. Now they have to learn to appreciate each other's differences before they can swap back again.

It won't be easy. Annabel (in her mother's body) makes moves on the next door neighbor, a school kid her age who is attracted to Annabel's mother. The love interest is never given anything other than minimal attention, and unlike the 2003 remake, there aren't many funny scenes involving him and the mother at all.

This movie is dull, lifeless, routine, and downright painful to sit through. It sparked the national curiosity of the body switch comedies, inspiring "Like Father Like Son," "18 Again," "Vice Versa" (the superior version of the formula), and even "Big." The genre has been over-used and misused many times, and "Vice Versa" and the 2003 version are the only two that actually offer anything funny and actually come off as fresh.

Otherwise this is boooooring! I saw "Freaky Friday" (2003) last night at a screening and it was ten times better than this. I also saw the TV version with Shelley Long and that, too, was even better than the 1976 version, which is so sickly cheery and low budget it almost pains the viewer.

Foster was fresh off the success of "Taxi Driver," released the same year, which is at least 1,000,000 times better than this film. She displays little acting skill, however, muttering her lines in voice-over narrative like she's reading off the back of a piece of paper -- which no doubt she was, anyhow.

Barbara Harris, in the role of Ellen, offers little other than dumb expressions and cute lines. The film even resorts to an awful climatic finale involving a cop car chase -- a sure sign that a film is in trouble.

The director, Gary Nelson, seems to have a knack for making absolutely nothing funny appear out of the given material. Looking back in retrospect, this was the first film of the body swatch genre, and seeing how mediocre this cheery little dud is, I can't understand why anyone would have offered to remake the material for years to come.

Here are words of advice: Skip this. Watch the 2003 remake. It's much, much better, and much, much funnier. Oh, and it has better acting, directing, and scriptwriting. Am I being cruel to this film? I don't think so. After all, it spawned an unfortunate series of awful body swap movies, and for that it deserves to die a truly painful death.
 
Movie Guru Rating
Disappointing.  Had the right ingredients and should have been better. Disappointing.  Had the right ingredients and should have been better.
  2 out of 5 stars

 
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