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Freaky Friday was originally a 1972 novel written by composer and author, Mary Rodgers (daughter of Richard Rodgers of Rodgers and Hammerstein fame). It was similar to an 1882 novel by F. Anstey entitled Vice Versa: A Lesson to Fathers wherein a father and son swap bodies. Mary Rodgers would switch up the formula by having a mother and daughter swap bodies. She even wrote the screenplay for the film adaptation. So with the original author writing the screenplay, is this Gary Nelson-directed Disney comedy any good? Read on to find out!
And remember, SPOILERS AHEAD!
As the credits roll, we’re treated to an enjoyable animated opening credits sequence reminiscent of the films at the time. We also hear the song, I’d Like to Be You for a Day, which may or may not be sung by Barbara Harris and Jodie Foster themselves. It’s a very 70s-style song which doesn’t seem very Disneyesque, but somehow kinda works for the film.
Once the credits end, we’re introduced to our main characters. Teenager Annabel Andrews, played by Jodie Foster, is your typical tomboyish, somewhat rebellious schoolgirl who both loves her mother as well as wishes she would just “chill”. Her mother, housewife Ellen Andrews, played by Barbara Harris, wishes her daughter would see just how much work she has to do and that Annabel should appreciate her childhood.
Annabel heads to the local ice cream parlor to meet her friends on the way to school all while complaining to them about her mother. Her mother, in the same vein, spends her morning complaining to her husband, Bill Andrews, played by John Astin, about Annabel before he heads to work. Eventually, the two simultaneously wish to switch places with each other.
This results in their identities swapping bodies. What I mean is, Annabel is now inside her mother’s body and Ellen is inside her daughter’s body. Both have no idea how it happened nor does the movie explain preferring to follow the Alfred Hitchcock The Birds route. Yes, it’s Friday the 13th, but other than that, we have no other explanation. Both Annabel and Ellen find it impossible to explain to the people around them who they really are. They eventually decide (mostly in an effort to show the other one up) to live the rest of the day as each other. Ellen (as Annabel) would go to school; after all how hard could it be? And Annabel (as Ellen) will stay home and take care of the house; after all how hard could it be?
Both soon discover that each other’s lives isn’t as peachy as they assumed. Ellen fails at school by accidentally ruining a photography class
as well as by blowing up the electric typewriters in typewriting class.
She has trouble playing in the band, outdoes everyone in history causing her friends to feel made fun of, and loses the team’s field hockey game after scoring the final point in her own team’s goal.
Annabel breaks the washing machine causing it to overflow and struggles to deal with the financial matters of paying their hired housekeeper, Mrs. Schmauss, played by Patsy Kelly, along with the plethora of workers who pay a visit including the milkman and the carpet cleaners.
She also uses her new body to speak and hang out with her neighbor crush, Boris, played by ̶J̶i̶m̶m̶y̶ ̶O̶l̶s̶e̶n̶ ̶D̶a̶v̶e̶ ̶M̶c̶F̶l̶y̶ Marc McClure. It leads to some quite awkward, but funny interactions. She also gets closer to her younger, goody-two-shoes brother, Ben, played by Sparky Marcus, after realizing that Ben loves and looks up to her even though she always hated him as a sister.
By the end of the day, both mother and daughter have gained a new appreciation for what the other does and how they truly love each other. The last event of the day is an aquacade event sponsored by Mr. Andrews’ company wherein Annabel is supposed to show off her waterskiing skills and Ellen is supposed to cook all the food for the event. As you can imagine, since neither Annabel nor Ellen are themselves, this is a nightmare for both parties!
Ellen (as Annabel) absolutely refuses to go out on water skis, but Mr. Andrews sneakily pushes her into the water. Annabel (as Ellen) recruits Boris and Ben to help her and after wrecking the food, she drives them to the aquacade, but since she doesn’t know how to drive, this proves disastrous! As both Annabel and Ellen are approaching ramps, they simultaneously wish to have their own bodies back.
And again in unexplained ways, they each go back to their own bodies. However, Annabel is still driving the car (as herself now) and Ellen is still waterskiing (as herself) now. Mr. Andrews is shocked to see his wife on waters skis wondering how the heck she got there as are Boris and Ben with Annabel. In the end, Annabel evades cops that have been chasing her and arrives at the marina just in time for Ellen to “land” right by the car. The two apologize to each other and share a hug.
Later that night at their house, Mr. Andrews is still trying to understand how Ellen ended up on the water skis instead of Annabel and can’t get a good enough answer. It ends with him and Ben wishing that they traded places with each other causing both Annabel and Ellen to facepalm.
And that was Freaky Friday! It was honestly quite a funny comedy from Disney, not one of my top favorites, but overall well-done. I feel having Mary Rodgers behind the screenplay helped the film a lot. The best part of the film by far is the impeccable acting by both Barbara Harris and Jodie Foster to portray themselves and each other in terms of personality. My biggest problem with the film is that I think the climax is way too long as the last half hour could have easily been shortened or paced better. But in the end, I’m glad I saw this film and am curious to see what the remake will be like.
So, my final score for this film is 29/35 = 82.86% (B-) !
The next review will be posted on July 21, 2020.
4 thoughts on “Freaky Friday (1976)”
The basic idea is good, but how it plays out is mostly more on the “eh” side and the movie as a whole is entirely carried by the actors. I always felt that ALL versions of the story just put to much emphasis on it being some special day, most likely to raise the stakes, and on unfunny jokes, when the premise in itself could provide a nicely balanced drama of understanding.
Yeah, maybe if it went more a dramatic route than comedic, we would see more of the understanding factor. I’m mostly happy with what I’ve seen though.
I was very much looking forward to this film when it came out, as someone (probably our teacher or the librarian) read the book to my class back around 5th grade, As anyone familiar w/ the book would know, it’s very little like the movie. In the book the Andrews family lived in a NYC apartment, and there were no real slapstick occurrences. Also the book was written w/ Annabel telling the full story in first person and only covered what happened in her day. Apparently her mother took over her body but skipped school while smoking cigarettes in her body.
I ordered the script for this movie from a place called Script City long before the Internet. When I received the script, I noticed that a couple scenes were less slapstick and closer to the book. Mr. MIlls was Annabel’s math teacher, not photography teacher, and Mrs. [Madame] Murphy was Annabel’s French teacher instead of her typing teacher. Still this movie was more like the book than any of the remakes, and I enjoyed this version the most..
Oh, it’s nice to hear from someone who’s read the book and the original script! I think the fact that Mary Rodgers also did the screenplay for the film helped it be as good as it was.
I’m wondering what I’ll think of the remakes.