Freaky Friday has always had a very solid premise. What if you could literally live a day in someone else’s shoes? You can use such a plot to show that things often appear to be easier than they really are. In real life this can most certainly be the case. Some who look like they’re having a great time may actually be struggling with something and others may actually just be having as much fun as they appear to be. There are quite a few variations of this. Gender Swap, self explanatory, Age Swap, switch with someone older or younger, Time Swap, switch with someone from the future or the past, and the only bad one, Animal Swap, self explanatory. Nobody wants to see a human act like an animal.
The film starts by showing us the strained relationship between Annabel and Ellen. Ellen is going through that rebellious phase where she is being tough to deal with for no particular reason at all. She is excelling at sports but her grades are slipping fast and her eating habits are terrible. Meanwhile Annabel is doing her best to run the place despite that but it’s been a long day and she has numerous chores not to mention that her husband Bill is always getting into trouble and she has to bail him out. Annabel and Ellen wish they could swap places and so begins the craziest day of their lives.
I definitely think this genre always has a bunch of potential. Honestly I’d say the Your Name version has more potential since their lives are very different so they have to try and adapt. Not to mention that they are unaware of who the other person is so it’s not like they can rely on memory. With the mother and daughter combination, their lives aren’t very far apart. In theory they have probably seen each other’s lifestyles many times. There’s still a lot you can do here, but that’s why the gender swap typically has more potential than the age swap, but you could argue that the main variable is having the characters not know who they are swapping with. The film gets around some of that by having the main character be rebellious. In theory she makes sure not to tell Ellen anything so at the very least her school life will be a surprise.
So who has the edge here? Well, I’d say that the Mom should be able to assimilate a lot better into the lifestyle. The school problems should be a breeze. Naturally I can see how the sports and water skiing would be a problem but for the most part she will do just fine. On the other hand, Annabel is doomed right from the start because she’s likely never cleaned in her life and by shutting herself off from everyone she doesn’t even have any basic intel on what a normal day is like. Basically, Annabel put herself in this bad predicament.
At first I was a little confused with the Dad. He comes off as a big of a condescending jerk in the beginning but these moments come as flashes. I thought the film was trying to make him a nice guy and the execution was off or the film didn’t age well. However it turns out the film was playing him up as an antagonist from the start so I’ll give the film some props here. It was handled very subtly to the point where the film could have find either way. Taking him down the villain path definitely makes sense because he is pretty extreme by the end. He forces his daughter to go water skiing for the big party by tricking her into it. He has a secretary who also gets a little tricky but Ellen put a stop to that. If anything the Dad gets off rather light by the end. Nothing actually happens to him and there is no real indication that he has changed as a person. At least both heroines are aware of his personality a little more now so maybe they will change him.
One of the most intense scenes in the film was definitely the soccer game. These kids apparently play really dirty and actually throw elbows to the face and blatantly trip Ellen. I could have sworn there was a punch to the face as well but I cannot confirm that. Needless to say this was Ellen’s worst scene. She just stands around and lets them beat her up for a while. When she finally gets up and decides to play, she scores for the wrong team. That’s something I’ve never quite gotten since you’d think that you would notice everyone telling you to stop. Why would you still go through with it? That’s one of the few scenes where you can’t really sympathize with Ellen. She blew her whole team’s chance at winning the championship and even though it’s played for laughs I’d say that this is the saddest scene in the movie.
The climax is a very long car chase which was certainly interesting. It does overstay its welcome after a while though and I have to question just how well Annabel was driving. Don’t get me wrong, I always thought driving was a whole lot easier than people always make it out to be but she made a big deal about not being able to drive beforehand. Then she is able to out drive the cops with ease in the next scene. The cops were good with snap judgement though like when their car split in two they made sure not to be close to the center and quickly got out to make sure their respective partner was okay. That’s what I expect from the trained professionals.
One subplot that certainly isn’t very good is the next door neighbor. Annabel likes him so she decides to put in a good word for herself after transforming but things get a little iffy here. Romance is one thing you need to completely avoid in age swapping films for obvious reasons. Ellen’s reputation has been absolutely tarnished here. The neighbor also didn’t have a real reason to be in the film. It’s not like he added anything so taking him away wouldn’t affect the story. If you’re going to add a character just for the fun of it, they have to be good. The house maid is a nice example of this as she shows up just to mock Ellen a lot and never steps outside of her comfort zone. The maid knows what she is being paid to do and won’t do anything extra. She just wants to go get a drink with the money she earns.
Freaky Friday is a decent comedy film but Sue holds it back quite a bit. She’s not even remotely likable and it’s always sad to see someone’s life being sabotaged when they can’t even do anything about it. Talk about tragic right? Even Annabel’s friends seem rather mean with how they pranked her after getting the correct answers. Sure, Ellen lost all of her common sense in the scene and for most of the first half as well but maybe transforming just does that to you. It could be a side effect.
Overall, Freaky Friday is fun and it doesn’t drag on. The pacing is solid and the concept is sound. It may drop the ball at times by going for too many plots and not having the two characters meet while in different bodies though. It’s not a perfect example of the genre and is lacking in replay value as there’s not much reason to watch it again. That being said, I’d likely recommend it if you like the genre. Just be prepared to be annoyed by Annabel, who doesn’t have any good moments in the entire film. There’s never a chance to feel bad for her.