Passed. It's The Parent Trap. I mean, it's mostly innocent. But, like, it also is about a failed marriage where both parents agreed to abandon one of their children forever. That's a thing that the movie really dances around. The entire conceit is a giant lie to children where they don't know that they actually have a sibling? That's insane. Sure, there's no language or violence, but the morality is pretty darned dubious if you ask me. Also, we see Hailey Mills's underwear kind of.
DIRECTOR: David Swift
I don't think I've seen this movie before. I mean, I knew every beat throughout the film, but I've never officially seen it before...I think. Maybe I have. Think of all the kids movies you've probably seen and forgotten. Regardless, this is one of the movies that was near and dear to my wife's heart, so she picked it for family movie night. (Which isn't happening as much as it used to when we thought that Covid-19 was going to be a three week thing.) Regardless, I'm pretty flabbergasted about the whole thing.
It's the cynical part of me. The part that is broken kept on giving my wife the eyes regarding this. (Not those eyes. No, the "are you seeing what I'm seeing?" eyes.) I always knew what The Parent Trap was. I think we all basically get the concept. Well, except my six-year-old son who keeps waiting for real traps to catch people. I don't disagree with him. That WOULD make the movie better. But shy of actually capturing adults, does no one want to talk about how this movie really ducks and dodges the concept of divorce. I was born in 1983. Nobody likes my generation. I'm too old to be young; I'm too young to be old. The extremes out there find me to be a waste of space. But being born 1983 means that the word "divorce" was a fairly common topic in storytelling. It was a bummer, but it was there. But 1961 didn't really just throw the word "divorce" around, especially in a Disney movie. It's also something we don't really have conversations with our kids about. It's not a taboo word, but we just haven't really had the sit-down talk. I think Disney probably had the same concept. They didn't want to open kids' eyes about the normality of divorce, but it doesn't mean that I didn't think about it really loudly.
There's slightly something unfair about the whole concept. I know. I'm a big stick in the mud. I had better rename this whole blog: "Literally, but Figuratively, a Big Stick in the Mud" because that's all I ever do. But the message of the movie really is that parents can fall back in love if they just hang out enough. Geez, there's some really dicey stuff going on in this movie that kind of teaches kids that it is on them to put their parents back together. The movie does a swell enough job of showing that Charles and Maggie really have a hard time being in the same room together. It really sells that well. Those two, oh boy! They go at it like alley cats. (I've been watching too much old timey Disney and it's affecting the way I write.) But the twins are persistent. They keep pushing for the parents to get back together...and they do. They totally do. Does no one else see the problem with this message, especially for divorced children? If you keep pushing and pushing and pushing, your parents, regardless of the toxicity of their marriage and their problems, will get back together. That's pretty uncomfortable. The more I think about it, the ickier it gets. I don't think that my wife has these thoughts. She loves love and I wish I could be that. I wish that's how I processed. But it isn't and I don't.
It's really weird that there's a bad guy in the story. I think I said the same thing about The Love Bug because it seems really shoehorned into the whole affair. In either incarnation, Hailey MIlls has to get rid of Vicky. Vicky is bad news. The thing is...Vicky isn't that bad in her first encounter with the audience. She's a girl who happens to like Charles and wants to start a family. But like a lot of Disney, thy have to evil her up. Do you know why that is? It's because reality is far more complicated than this movie really allows. Vicky as a good person means that the twins have to torture someone that is inherently good. It's the problem that a lot of rom-coms have. They have characters that aren't exactly evil that have to disappear. There are two choices when this happens. 1) Let's make them evil. This is the route that The Parent Trap took and I guess it works better than the second option, which is 2) make this person a plot device who totally understands the greater good in this scenario. Yeah, I'll take evil Vicky any day because it at least justifies the cruelty that Susan and Sharon thrust upon this woman. But it is a bit silly that she's in it for the McKendrick fortune.
The Macguffin of the movie takes a movie that really tries to ride the line between reality and fantasy and drives it pretty hard into the world of fantasy. Vicky chasing after Charles's fortune is a non-issue for all of the characters except for Vicky and her mother. Her mother, by the way, is probably one the things that really makes this a Disney movie because she's kindred spirits with the rest of the Disney henchmen. Charles seems rich, but the twins aren't defined by their fortune. It is really weird that Hailey Mills adopts a posh English accent for upper-crust Boston. But that's the only thing that really defines them as rich. Yet, there are apparently characters like Vicky and her mother who need to enmesh themselves into a family to get a hold of this fortune. It seems like a bit much and the story really seems to glide past the idea that Charles is almost bamboozled out of the family fortune by a complete stranger who wants to marry him immediately. I love that Vicky actively hates the girls by the end of the film, but it is only because she doesn't do well camping that crosses her off the list for marriage.
The structure of the film is different than I thought it would be as well. I know that I claimed that I saw every beat coming. I saw every beat coming...except for one. Then I saw the movie for the fact that it was two movies. The central concept is that these two girls look alike in every way with the exception of a haircut. Okay, I can buy that so far. I'm actually pretty on board that idea. It's The Prince and the Pauper, only with two rich kids who happen to be related. The reason why Hailey Mills has to film every scene twice (with the exception of the hilarious stating of a double in many scenes) is because it is important that the two girls look exactly alike. But then, about 60% through the movie, the conceit is lost? The girls reveal that they've been setting up a parent trap? And we're supposed to be cool with that? I wasn't ready for that. I swear. It completely took my by surprise when they just up and told the parents. Then, they just confess their plans and expect it to work. I mean, of course it worked, because this is a Disney film and Disney kids don't get to have divorced parents.
But I have to stop being a stick in the mud sometimes. I'm literally smirking to myself in an empty room, but I really kinda enjoyed it. For all my virtue signaling and white knighting, there's something really fun about the movie as a whole. The opening animation establishes this absolutely fantastic tone for the movie as a whole. Sure, the movie is really two movies (pre-and-post reveal), but those two movies are super cute. My parents never got divorced, so it didn't rip me in half thinking about this film. That's the most privileged thing I've written today, but it's true. It is a good movie...if the movie doesn't stab you in the heart and gets too personal. That's part of the whole thing. If you watch it as a cute movie, it's a super cute movie. If you are like me, remove your brain from the equation. Because the message of the film is troubling, the format of the movie is bizarre, and the logic is at best dubious. But who really cares? The movie is super cute and has some good gags. I also really like the song "Let's Get Together." If you watch it like that, it'll be a good time. And sometimes that's what you need on a quarantined Disney+ watch.
Film is great. It can challenge us. It can entertain us. It can puzzle us. It can awaken us.
Mr. H has watched an upsetting amount of movies. They bring him a level of joy that few things have achieved.