Disney movies are framed as family classics instantly, and both versions of The Parent Trap uphold that tradition with ease. The Parent Trap is a classic children’s movie filled with humor, wit, and fun that all ages can enjoy. This movie charmed audiences in 1961 and again with the remake in 1998.
I loved both versions, but the remake won me over. The original Parent Trap, released in 1961, was directed by David Swift and starred Hayley Mills as the twins. The remake released in 1998, was directed by Nancy Meyers and starred Lindsay Lohan. Both Mills and Lohan were praised and adored for their performances as these two spunky and determined girls. It was other aspects of the movies like the special effects, humor and overall feel that made me favor the remake.
In both films identical twins meet at summer camp, unaware of each other’s existence. Their identical appearance initially creates rivalry between them which results in prank wars. Eventually their behavior gets them into trouble and they are punished with living together in an isolated cabin for the rest of camp. Once the two finally get to talking they come to find numerous similarities in their lives including birth dates and broken families; eventually realizing they are twin sisters and their parents divorced shortly after their birth, with each parent taking custody of one of them. The twins decide to switch places and pose as each other so they can finally meet the other parent and hopefully reunite the whole family. The plan is disrupted when they find out that their father is engaged to a new woman who is only out for his money.
They then reveal the truth to the mother and have her come to stop the wedding. Once the girls are reunited they re-create their parents first date, and do everything to scare the new woman away. The parents end up rekindling their love and re-marrying, including the twins in the wedding. Although the overall plot of the two movies are pretty much the same, there were a lot of little differences. For starters, the names were different along with the hometown of the families. In the original, it was Susan Evers and Sharon McKendrick.
Sharon lived with her mother, Maggie (Maureen O’Hara), in Boston. Sharon lived with her father, Mitch (Brian Keith) in California. In the remake, the two girls were named Annie James and Hallie Parker. Annie lived with her mother, Elizabeth (Natasha Richardson), in London.
Hallie lived with her father, Nick (Dennis Quaid), in California. How the girls find out they’re twins differs as well. In both movies they figure it all out while in the isolation cabin through pictures. But in the original, Sharon explains how she has seen a picture of her mother on her father’s desk, Susan pulls out a picture of her mother and Sharon confused, says “Why do you have a picture of my mother? ” Sharon and Susan then realize they are twins. In the remake, both girls explain that they have half of a torn wedding photo of their parents. Eventually they reveal their pictures to each other and come to find their halves match and were once a whole picture, confirming that they are twins.
Another difference in the plot is how the girls end up bringing their parents together. After getting a call from Sharon about her father’s fiancee, Vicky (Joanna Barnes), Susan tells her mother the truth and they fly to California to switch the girls back. The two work to sabotage the new couple and arrange a dinner for their parents’, which ends in them arguing over Vicky. To delay their mother leaving, the girls dress and talk alike, so their parents can’t tell them apart, planning to reveal who is who only after the family camping trip.
Vicky ends up going on the camping trip and shows her true colors, which results in Mitch dumping her and remarrying Maggie. In the other movie, Annie calls Hallie informing her of the new woman, Meredith (Elaine Hendrix), and insists that she and her mother come break them up. Everyone except Nick and Meredith are aware of the switch and the girls plan to have everyone meet up at a hotel in California. To make this work, Nick went to the hotel to meet Meredith’s parents and Elizabeth went unaware about the engagement.
Nick finally learns about the switch, and then Hallie and Annie set up a candlelit dinner, recreating their first date. Meredith, Nick and the girls go on the camping trip and Meredith ends up making Nick choose between her and his daughters, he chooses the girls. Nick and Elizabeth re-marry a year later. When comparing two movies and choosing which is better some of the smallest things make the biggest difference.
I liked the remake of The Parent Trap more than the original because of the plot differences, the update in technology and because of the actors and actresses. If you compare some of the slight plot differences of these two movies, Nancy Meyers comes out on top with her remake. First off, how the girls met. Sharon and Susan met by simply glancing at each other in the dining hall and it was not a very exciting part.
Hallie and Annie met after an intense fencing match with each other and only saw each other once their helmets were removed. This scene was much more fun for the audience to watch because we knew what was going on and the two characters had no idea; it gives the viewers some excitement. Also this scene included the line from Annie “I have class and you don’t” which the British accent clearly made ten times sassier and cooler. David Swift’s version had some sass as well, from Susan’s friends saying “how dare she come here with your face“ whenever the girls saw each other. Both instances were cute and funny but I just loved the remakes scene more. Another great part of these movies was the pranks the girls played back and forth on each other while at camp.
In both movies the girls vandalized the others cabin with whip cream, syrup, feathers, string etc. creating a complete mess and the perfect prank. But the difference was the other pranks the girls pulled. In the original, Sharon cut off the back of Susan’s dress at the camp dance which was so awful that it caused their fight which sent them to the isolation cabin. In the remake, Hallie putting Annie’s bed and dresser on the roof of a cabin is what got the girls sent to the isolation. I think that the outrageous pranks pulled by the girls in the remake made the movie better and more entertaining than those pulled in the original.
The role of two different people played by only one person is not an easy task to pull off. Something these two movies had in common is that both Hayley Mills and Lindsay Lohan successfully played this role and were praised by critics. “Miss Lohan plays the dual role with apparent effortlessness and with so much forcefulness” (Maslin). I was so in awe of Hayley and Annie throughout the movie and a lot of that is from Lohan’s performance. Watching this movie again brought me back to my childhood days fighting over which twin I was with friends and still thinking Lindsay Lohan actually had a twin. It proves that her acting in The Parent Trap makes the movie timeless because I now know I did not love it solely because I was a kid.
“Miss Mills does that oftentimes sappy feat of playing impossible-to-tell-apart twins, and she does it with delightful insouciance, dexterity and charm” (Crowther). I had never seen this version of the movie until now yet I still loved Sharon and Susan’s characters and had a desire to be friends with them. The talent these two young actresses’ show throughout their role really makes these movies special. Although both Mills and Lohan exceeded in their roles, the supporting actors is where the two films differ in likeability for me.
In the original, the other roles were very boring and had no positive contribution to the movie for me; “The adult roles are pretty stale, with the exception of glamorous Maureen O’Hara as Mrs. McKendrick and Charlie Ruggles as the lovable grandfather” (LeVasseur). In the remake, Lohan was not the only character that added charm to the movie, the parents, staff, and wicked fiancee all really helped bring the story together. Dennis Quaid and Natasha Richardson bring such humor and warmth to the movie that I was amazed to find myself actually caring about their romance. The three important supporting roles are also well filled.
Plump, spunky Lisa Ann Walter, plays the nanny and housekeeper on Quaids spread and bald, droll Simon Kunz is Richardson’s butler. Elaine Hendrix is the snotty publicist who plans to marry Quaid until the parent trap springs. She has a thankless role, the only person in the movie we are not supposed to like but at least they don’t make her stand there and be obnoxious. She demonstrates on the camping trip, once and for all, that she is not the ideal wife for Quaid” (Ebert). Last but not least, regarding one actress playing two roles, the special effects and technology used in the remake were far more advanced in the 1998 version. Although the film crew managed to pull it off in 1961, when comparing the two, it is easy to see the major improvements that were made, critics agree.
“The split-screen technology and trick photography using a body double looks pretty seamless for the time, and Mills is convincing in the dual role thanks to her charming performance” (LeVasseur). The twins are played by the same actress, using trick photography. Hayley Mills did it in 1961, and Lindsay Lohan does it this time, seamlessly. Although I was aware that special effects and over-the-shoulder doubles were being used, I simply stopped thinking about it, because the illusion was so convincing” (Ebert). Like Ebert said, the special effects in this version were not even noticeable making it completely believable that there were actually two different girls whereas, as LeVasseur said, the special effects were decent but Mills’ acting is really what brought the illusion together.
Both the original and remake of The Parent Trap are wonderful movies the whole family can enjoy. The two are very similar and share the same plot minus a few slight differences regarding the time it was set in. My favoritism may lean towards the remake because it was technically the original to me since I never saw the 1961 version until now; and I must admit, innocent Lindsay Lohan will always have a special place in my heart. But I also like the remake better than the original because of the modern updates and the whole feel of the movie in general.
Rev. of The Parent Trap, dir. David Swift. The New York Times 22 June 1961. Print. Ebert, Robert.
Rev. of The Parent Trap, dir. Nancy Meyers. Rogerebert. com, 29 July 1998.
Web. 28 April 2014. LeVasseur, Andrea. Rev.
of The Parent Trap, dir. David Swift. MSNMovies. com Web. 28 April 2014.
Maslin, Janet. Rev. of The Parent Trap, dir. Nancy Meyers. The New York Times 29 July 1998. Print.
The Parent Trap. Dir. David Swift. Perf.
Hayley Mills, Maureen O’hara, and Brian Keith. Polygram, 1961. Film. The Parent Trap. Dir.
Nancy Meyers. Perf. Lindsay Lohan, Dennis Quaid, Natasha Richardson. Polygram, 1998. Film.