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FREAKY FRIDAY (director: Gary Nelson; screenwriter: Mary Rodgers; cinematographer: Charles F. Wheeler; editor: Cotton Warburton; music: Johnny Mandel; cast: Barbara Harris (Ellen Andrews), Jodie Foster (Annabel Andrews), John Astin (Bill Andrews), Patsy Kelly (Mrs. Schmauss), Marc McClure (Boris Harris), Dick Van Patten (Harold Jennings), Vicki Schreck (Virginia), Sparky Marcus (Ben Andrews), Charlene Tilton (Bambi); Runtime: 95; MPAA Rating: GP; producers: Tom Leetch/Ron Miller; Buena Vista Pictures; 1976)
“It’s vacuous TV sitcom stuff that’s hampered by a weak script…”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Prolific TV director Gary Nelson (“The Black Hole”/”Allan Quatermain and the Lost City of Gold”) made this tiresome switcheroo comedy for Disney films; it’s based on the novel and screenplay by Mary Rodgers, the daughter of composer Richard Rodgers. Jodie Foster was 14 when she made this film (started her acting career at age two in a suntan lotion commercial). It’s vacuous TV sitcom stuff that’s hampered by a weak script, too much talk, a silly barrage of double meanings that go nowhere and poorly executed sight gags. It’s an unsatisfying update of the 1948 Vice Versa, and only made bearable by the fine performances of stage actress Barbara Harris and Jodie Foster–who do more with such mush than can be expected. Only the kiddies might take to this sterile family-friendly fare.

A quarreling suburban mom, Ellen Andrews (Barbara Harris), and her impudent 13-year-old daughter, Annabel (Jodie Foster), each separately but simultaneously wish to be in the other’s shoes for a day and magically that wish is granted. They switch personalities for a day and Annabel suddenly has to deal with the challenges of running a household while mother Ellen attends junior high. Bill Andrews (John Astin) is the befuddled husband and father who has to scratch his head at the turn of events; he’s stereotyped according to sitcom type as benign and uninteresting. The film comes with dull life learning lessons, as this freaky experience helps Annabel gain maturity and Ellen gain a better understanding of her daughter’s behavior.

Freaky Friday was remade as a TV movie in 1995, and as a Hollywood movie with Jamie Lee Curtis and Lindsay Lohan in 2003. Neither version is anything to write home about.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”