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The Parent Trap (1998): Special Double Trouble Edition DVD Review

The Parent Trap (1998) movie poster The Parent Trap (1998)

Theatrical Release: July 29, 1998 / Running Time: 128 Minutes / Rating: PG

Director: Nancy Meyers / Writers: David Swift, Nancy Meyers, Charles Shyer (screenplay), Erich Kδstner (book)

Cast: Dennis Quaid (Nick Parker), Natasha Richardson (Elizabeth James), Lindsay Lohan (Hallie Parker, Annie James), Elaine Hendrix (Meredith Blake), Lisa Ann Walter (Chessy), Simon Kunz (Martin), Ronnie Stevens (Grandfather), Polly Holliday (Marva Kulp Sr.), Maggie Wheeler (Marva Kulp Jr.), Joanna Barnes (Vicki Blake), Hallie Meyers-Shyer (Lindsay), Maggie Emma Thomas (Zoe), Courtney Woods (Nicole), Katerina Graham (Jackie), Michael Lohan (Lost Boy at Camp)

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Remakes are a tricky thing. When culling from our cinematic past, filmmakers are apt to find material that was already widely embraced rather than something met with indifference. As such, they soon find the difficult task of living up to something that is beloved, a source of nostalgia, and probably not in need of an update. This daunting reality is what faced husband and wife team Nancy Meyers and Charles Shyer who collaborated on the screenplay for The Parent Trap, a remake released to theaters in the summer of 1998.
The original 1961 film, written for the screen and directed by David Swift, was one of Disney's most adored live action comedies, remembered fondly for Hayley Mills' second (and third) leading performance(s) and some lively musical numbers from the studio's go-to songwriting team, Richard and Robert Sherman.

Hallie Parker and Annie James are two ordinary eleven-year-olds who both happen to be attending Camp Walden for Girls this summer. Though they speak with different accents and have differing lengths of red hair, the girls are otherwise identical in appearance, a fact rather surprising for both of them, since neither has previously met the other. A rivalry soon emerges between the two girls over fencing and poker, and this soon develops into an all-out prank war. For their antics, Hallie and Annie are both sent to the "Isolation Cabin." There, they begin to get along. They piece together that they are twin sisters and that their single parents were once married before splitting ways and splitting up their daughters.

Before their eight weeks at Camp Walden are up, Hallie hatches a plan that sounds pretty appealing to both girls. They'll switch places, allowing each girl to meet and spend time with the parent she's never known and ultimately requiring that Mom and Dad will have to see each other for the switchback. In the minds of the nearly-twelve twins, it's an ideal situation and one with the promise of a possible family reunion.

Lindsay Lohan plays twins Annie and Hallie who discover each other for the first time at summer camp. The ripped picture fits together!

Whereas in the original film, the twins were from Boston and California, this time they're from different countries; Hallie lives with her dad (Dennis Quaid) on their Northern California vineyard and Annie and her wedding gown designer mother (Natasha Richardson) reside in the London area. This relocation would have made sense for the '60s version, since it makes things less confusing for the audience and would have better explained Hayley Mills falling in and out of her British accent. Following a makeshift ear piercing and haircut for Annie and training for both, the two girls make their way 'home' each excited to discover a new land and a new parent.

The period of learning and exploration begins painlessly enough, with Annie enjoying sunny wine country with her father and Hallie pleased with her mother's glamorous career, a cozy home, and the many new sights of England. But there's a hitch in the procedure when Annie learns that Dad is thinking of marrying Meredith Blake (Elaine Hendrix), a pretty young colleague who it's pointed out is only fifteen years older than Annie. Driven by the fading hope that their parents might still get back together, Hallie and Annie plan their best course of action while grappling with whether or not to come clean about their identity. Of course, in the Disney tradition, the parents are the last to know what's going on. Even Sam, Hallie's dog, has his suspicions before anyone else.

This 1998 remake of The Parent Trap neither strays too far from the original nor follows it too closely. The result is a winning one, with a mix of delectable old-fashioned values and modern sensibilities. Considering that its source material is practically sacred ground and that it came on the heels of the disastrous update Flubber, it's especially surprising and satisfying how well this film is pulled off.

Hallie enjoys some English tea with her mother (Natasha Richardson). Annie gets to experience wine country with her father (Dennis Quaid).

Like the original, though it deals with the harsh realities of a broken family, it is by all accounts a happy, feel-good movie. It need not dwell on the drama to have the audience invested in its course and rooting for a cheerful conclusion.
Smiles are abound in what could most readily be classified as a family-friendly romantic comedy, one which delivers mild laughs and an absence of schmaltz as it devotes equal time and care to both pairs of child and adult subjects, all of whom are extremely likable.

The performances are universally excellent, with Lindsay Lohan turning in convincing and utterly charismatic turns as the twin girls. In her star-making film debut, Lohan drives the gentle comedy, which is essential considering the way she dominates the first half-hour of the film. In roles unlike anything they had done before this, Quaid and Richardson are surprisingly effective and compelling, each remembering to have fun with their characters without playing down. Supporting acts by Elaine Hendrix, and relative unknowns Lisa Ann Walter and Simon Kunz all hit the right notes as well to create a medium-sized "small world" that is entirely interesting.

Co-writers Meyers and Shyer also took on directing and producing tasks, respectively, and their children have small roles throughout. It's truly their imprint then that's on the film and contributes to its success. Their film is skillfully edited and makes good use of prerecorded music. It's illustrative of a solid '90s style of filmmaking while very conscious of things that have cinematically worked in the past, most obvious in how it stays true to the spirit of the first Parent Trap film. As such, it's not immediately identifiable as a "Disney movie", probably no more so than the comedies Meyers and Shyer made for the Touchstone branch such as the Steve Martin Father of the Bride movies and I Love Trouble.

Hallie enjoys her view of the UK. Natasha Richardson gets the pleasure of hearing Dennis Quaid's Cary Grant impression in this scene.

With one actress cast in the two lead roles, it's impossible to not discuss the film's visual effects, which are entirely believable. Never once do you question that there really are two girls. Perhaps they're not as surprising as the mostly convincing work in the 1961 version, but they're far more seamless and never relied upon as the primary source of dazzlement in the film. Equally meriting praise is Lohan's adeptness in calling upon a British accent, surely a credit of first-rate dialogue coaching. It seems challenging enough to find an 11-year-old actor to simply embody one role and speak in their natural tongue, which makes young Lohan's dual performances all the more praiseworthy and crucial to the film's skill.

While remakes are generally frowned upon and often with good reason, The Parent Trap is one which works and very well. Like its predecessor, the '90s version wins you over with a clever premise, compelling characters, and easy-to-embrace comedic tone. This updated treatment of a fine source is handled with skill in just about every regard, from sharp writing to strong performances, with remarkable visual effects that you do not even notice. For a project that should feel derivative and uninspired, there is very little to complain about and far more to enjoy in this lighthearted treat.

The Parent Trap first came to DVD in March of 1999 and it concurrently debuted on VHS and laserdisc. Like all of Disney's early DVDs, it was treated to a light disc, with the only special feature being the film's theatrical trailer. On laserdisc, it fared much better, receiving the trailer, plus an audio commentary, a deleted scene, a featurette on visual effects, and several Lindsay Lohan screen tests. That plain vanilla DVD of the film went out of print at some point and then resurfaced exactly as it was in June 2004, without explanation. Now, as part of a studio promotion on Lindsay Lohan DVDs, timed to precede this summer's theatrical release of Herbie: Fully Loaded the latest Lohan-driven update on vintage Disney gold, the actress's first film is reissued in this "Special Double Trouble Edition" which delivers a new anamorphically-enhanced widescreen transfer and most of the LD's bonus material.

Buy The Parent Trap: Special Double Trouble Edition from Amazon.com DVD Details

1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Dolby Digital 5.1 (English, French)
Subtitles: English, French
Closed Captioned
Release Date: May 31, 2005
Single-sided, dual-layered disc (DVD-9)
Suggested Retail Price: $14.99 (Reduced from $19.99)
White Keepcase with Side Snaps

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VIDEO and AUDIO

Though the opening Walt Disney pictures logo looks murky and you might worry that you're getting a recycled transfer, worry not. The Parent Trap is presented in a terrific 1.85:1 widescreen transfer which has been enhanced for 16x9 televisions. This presentation may not be perfect, but I couldn't find much wrong with it. Colors are consistent, accurate, and never bleed. The picture remains sharp (but not excessively or artificially so) and vibrant throughout. There's excellent depth and detail. Both light and dark scenes hold up extremely well. One might detect the most minimal softness and ringing on very rare occasions, but overall the video quality is about as flawless as you could hope for on DVD.

Like its previous DVD incarnations, The Parent Trap's audio comes in the Dolby Digital 5.1 format, offering the original English soundtrack and a French dub. The sound presentation is about as pleasing as the picture. Dialogue is always crisp, full, and intelligble. Music is present most of the time, and it is nicely conveyed, particularly Alan Silvestri's nice score. The demands of an action film aren't placed on the soundfield, but the track makes nice use of channel separation for an appropriately engulfing surround mix.

Director Nancy Meyers discusses the film in the making-of featurette "Updating a Classic." Lindsay Lohan on the set of her first movie, as seen in "Updating a Classic." Much footage of this on-set interview with Lindsay Lohan appears in both the production and visual effects featurettes.

BONUS FEATURES

The first bonus we find is "Updating a Classic", an 18½-minute production featurette from the time of release. I can't confirm that this was included on the laserdisc, but one guesses it would have been. Though none of the piece is new, it provides a nice overview on the making of the film. In interview clips, we hear from pretty much all of the cast, most frequently from the widely-praised Lohan who comes across as having lots of fun in what was surely a less stressful time for her and her family (who are briefly seen). Director Nancy Meyers recalls discovering Lohan and her intentions for this film. One of the more interesting sections of the featurette is devoted to the original Parent Trap, which Lohan and Meyers both express their admiration for.
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This part covers the remake's tiny homage to its predecessor and the return of Joanna Barnes, who had roles in both filmings. Overall, this is a bit more substantial than many of the superficial making-ofs that DVD more or less requires, thanks to some candid comments and interesting on-set footage.

The film's impressive accent work definitely merits a supplement on dialogue coaching, but the featurette "The Accent on Fun" (3:55) isn't quite what you'd want. Dialogue coach Joel Goldes (who apparently had nothing to do with the film) and consultant Jessica Drake (who did) explain what getting someone to adopt a British accent entails. After a few brief remarks, the rest is simply devoted to Drake instructing a young blonde girl to speak some of Annie's lines from the film as she did, each of which is followed by the relevant clip from the film. This short bit is still interesting, but one expects more (maybe unfairly) than a short session of pointers.

"How Hallie Became Annie" (8:20) is a featurette on the film's subtle but elaborate visual effects. It covers how the filmmakers convincingly depicted two Lindsay Lohans out of just one, making use of blue screens, photo doubles, earpieces for timing, motion control cameras, and more. There's a lot of examples illustrating the techniques employed, some talk from effects supervisors, most prominently Dr. Ken Jones, plus on-set interview footage of little Lindsay who explains the challenges of the dual role. There's a similar featurette on the original Parent Trap's two-disc Vault Disney DVD; that one was very interesting and so is this one which has the benefit of thirty-seven years of technological advance. While a lot of footage is from the time of production, some of it seems recent enough to suggest that this is a newly-produced piece and not simply a port from what was on the laserdisc.

Jessica Drake and this unidentified little girl do some dialogue training in "The Accent on Fun." Hallie meets this guard and later the Queen, in this deleted scene. A still from the animated main menu.

Next is the deleted scene "Meeting the Queen", in which Hallie (pretending to be Annie) makes a stop at the Buckingham Palace on the way home. She doesn't get much response from a guard, but to her surprise, she gets to spend a few moments with the Queen, who turns out to be quite friendly.
This sequence runs 2 minutes and 45 seconds; it is presented in fullscreen and can also be viewed with audio commentary by director/co-writer Nancy Meyers and producer/co-writer Charles Shyer who explain why it was abandoned even though they like it and it required a lot of work.

The last and longest supplement included is an informative audio commentary by director/co-writer Nancy Meyers, producer/co-writer Charles Shyer (her husband), and director of photography Dean Cundey. This is a direct port from the laserdisc and it's a good one, as it's quite easy to listen to and filled with interesting anecdotes from production. Cundey provides more of the technical side to literally filming the movie, while Meyers and Shyer cover a wide range of aspects, from their script to audience response. Up through the end of the end credits, there are hardly any blanks in the discussion and the few times there are, the film's dialogue fills in at a loud volume.

As has become a standard, the cast and crew are highlighted for their efforts at certain points during the track; lots of praise is bestowed upon Lohan for her ability to work with the visual effects, which are explained at various points. There's talk of the original Parent Trap, from some subtle homages (including the very opening logo!) to certain parts they felt had to be maintained and down to David Swift's reaction to seeing their remake. The speakers point out little elements of production design that you probably didn't notice upon previous viewings. Finally, there is discussion about a number of scenes and snippets that were written but not shot or filmed but later cut out (these are unfortunately not presented elsewhere on the DVD), including some dialogue that the release of Titanic required them to trim. All in all, the track provides an encompassing view of the production without any noticeable overlap with the other video-based supplements.

Unfortunately, the one bonus feature that was on the previous DVD, the film's theatrical trailer, is nowhere to be found here. Can you find the logic in losing the one extra that was originally included? Me neither. It's especially disappointing in that it is said to include footage that didn't make it into the final cut of the film. There are no sneak peeks anywhere else on the disc either, which is a little surprising since the disc is timed to coincide with the theatrical release of Herbie: Fully Loaded. Perhaps it was an oversight. Not sure if we can say the same about the Lindsay Lohan screen tests which were reportedly on the laserdisc but are absent here.

All of the 16 x 9 menu screens feature selections from the film's score. The Main Menu features overloud instrumentation, but a nice animated montage of scenes from the film, predominantly focusing on the young Lindsay Lohans. The Bonus Features employs animation as well, while the rest of the menus are stills but in the same primarily white, light blue, and silver color scheme.

Let's get together, yea yea yea! Double Trouble, indeed!

CLOSING THOUGHTS

In spite of a confounding couple of exclusions, this Special Double Trouble Edition is the finest home video release The Parent Trap has received to date. Sure it may not be a fully loaded DVD (pun intended?), but thanks to Lindsay Lohan's new Disney movie, her first and (to date) best film has been revisited in a wholly satisfying and low-priced new disc. Top-notch video and audio, a nice collection of bonuses ported over from laserdisc, and a winning comedy remake. What's not to like?

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Related Reviews:
The Parent Trap (1961) & The Parent Trap 2 (1986): 2-Movie Collection • Pollyanna
Freaky Friday (2003) • Herbie: Fully Loaded • Get a Clue
Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen • Labor Pains • My Scene Goes Hollywood: The Movie
101 Dalmatians (1996) • That Darn Cat (1997) • The Shaggy Dog (2006) • Angels in the Outfield (1994)
The Princess Diaries (Special Edition) • The Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement • Ice Princess • Julie & Julia
Dennis Quaid: The Rookie • Smart People • Vantage Point | Elaine Hendrix: Inspector Gadget 2
Written by Nancy Meyers: Father of the Bride (1991) (15th Anniversary Special Edition)
Kit Kittredge: An American Girl • Full House: The Complete Seventh Season • Tinker Bell and the Lost Treasure
Twins: Twitches • Twitches Too • The Suite Life on Deck: Anchors Away! • Sweet Valley High: The Complete First Season

Related Page: The Parent Trap in UD's Live Action Countdown (#28)

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Reviewed May 17, 2005.