The Parent Trap (1998)

(On TV, November 2015) Charm can beat ludicrousness, and so it is that this modern take on The Parent Trap doesn’t suffer too much from its reality-stretching premise thanks to the comic talents of no one else but… Lindsay Lohan in her debut feature film role.  Lohan’s fate since then has been the stuff parental nightmares are made of, but in 1998 she is pure teenage bubbly charm as she plays a pair of long-lost twins reunited at a summer camp.  The rest of the plot is predictable as the twins conspire to change lives and bring their estranged parents back together, but Lohan is a delight as she goes from British stiff upper-lip to Californian whimsy.  Dennis Quaid and Natasha Richardson are fine as the parents targeted by their daughters, but it’s really Lohan who steals the show here.  In her feature film debut, director Nancy Meyer is at ease depicting the same kind of over-privileged characters in wish-fulfillment settings that would characterise her subsequent films.  The broad strokes of the plot are familiar (all the way to how a romantic suitor for the father is conveniently and definitively dispatched) but this is a film best served by its execution, small sequences and actors doing their best to be charming.  As such, it fulfills its goals and leaves the audience smiling.  Don’t ask too many questions about the premise, though, otherwise your brain will melt trying to figure out how to get there.  In retrospective, The Parent Trap is now more powerful as a striking beginning for Lohan and, to a lesser extent, Meyer, than a standalone comedy.

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