Freaky Friday (1976)

Forty-six years ago today, the American fantasy-comedy film Freaky Friday premiered in Los Angeles. The swapping-with-a-parent plot has happened quite a few times, recently there was even a swapping-bodies-with-a-serial-killer movie. But in my opinion, Jodi Foster and Barbara Harris did it the best!

Title: Freaky Friday
Directed by: Gary Nelson
Screenplay by: Mary Rodgers
Based on: Freaky Friday by Mary Rodgers
Produced by: Ron Miller
Starring: Jodie Foster, Barbara Harris, John Astin, Patsy Kelly, Dick Van Patten, Sorrell Booke, & Charlene Tilton
Cinematography: Charles F. Wheeler
Edited by: Cotton Warburton
Music by: Johnny Mandel
Production Company: Walt Disney Productions
Distributed by: Buena Vista Distribution
Release dates: December 17, 1976 (Los Angeles), January 21, 1977 (United States)
Running time: 97 minutes
Country: United States
Language: English
Budget: $5 million
Box office: $36 million

Ellen Andrews (Barbara Harris) and her daughter, Annabel (Jodie Foster) constantly quarrel. Following a disagreement on Thursday, before Friday the 13th, Annabel leaves to join a friend at a local diner. In sync, Annabel and Ellen (who is in the family home’s kitchen) both wish aloud, “I wish I could switch places with her for just one day.” Their wish comes true when their bodies are switched. After a brief scene where they are shocked at seeing their new appearances, both ladies proceed as each other normally would.

Annabel is now a housewife, tending to laundry, car repair, grocery deliveries, carpet cleaners, dry cleaners, her housemaid, and the family Basset hound, Max. As though Annabel did not have her hands full, Bill Andrews (John Astin) coerces her to cook dinner for twenty-five people as his catered dinner party plans fell through. Annabel enlists Boris (Marc McClure), a neighbor on whom she has harbored a crush, to look after her younger brother and help make a chocolate mousse but all three manage to mess everything up, then later saving face by making everything into a smörgåsbord. Annabel does have a bright spot with her brother, Ben, such as getting to have personal discussions with him, when she picks him up from school. He tells her which qualities he envies about Annabel, and is able to share her loathing over the housemaid, who is constantly complaining about Annabel’s sloppiness, and then confesses when he tried to be messy to connect with Annabel, the housemaid said he didn’t know better and cleaned up after him. Plus, between all the talks, they play baseball which improves their relationship. Annabel later remorses for misjudging Ben and getting a different outlook on him.

Meanwhile Ellen, now a high school student, struggles with marching band, destroys her entire typing class’s electric typewriters, exposes her photography class’s developing film, and loses a field hockey game. However, Ellen does have one bright point, in a U.S. history class where she accurately recounts the Korean War, having lived through the 1950s as a little girl. In an effort to escape school, Ellen (as Annabel) runs to Bill’s office. There, she encounters Bill’s new attractive, young, and immodestly dressed secretary. Ellen attempts to intimidate the young woman by sharing how frightening “her mother” is. This effort appeared successful as the secretary adopts more modest clothing, glasses, and an unflattering hairstyle. Ellen (as Annabel) asks Bill for access to his credit card in order to make herself over as her braces were scheduled to be removed that afternoon. Bill approves and chalks up his secretary’s awkward appearance to personal problems at home as her son is sick and her husband was wounded in the Vietnam War, causing Ellen to scold herself for not trusting her husband.

The day ends in a comical twist when the mother-daughter pair wishing a new request: to return to themselves. This does happen, although in a different manner than before. They are physically transferred, with Annabel suddenly sitting now behind the wheel of a car with Ben and Boris, with none of them knowing how to drive and attracting the attention of several squad cars. Ellen in turn finds herself water skiing as she (as Annabel) was scheduled to participate in an aquacade. Bill, who has prospective clients at the aquacade, fears unemployment as he sees Ellen flailing helplessly on skis, but her antics amuse the clients so much that Bill wins the account.

With a new understanding of each other’s lives, mother and daughter forgive each other. Following the events of Freaky Friday, Annabel begins dating Boris. Bill is playing cards with Ellen, still trying to understand what happened. Ellen and Bill are fine with Boris taking Annabel to a pizzeria for a date, and Annabel surprises Ben by letting him tag along with them. Ben complains that he never gets to do fun stuff like his dad, who is getting ready for a business trip the following Saturday dirt biking with a Japanese motorcycle firm looking to enter the U.S. market, while Bill says Ben should be more appreciative of a worry-free childhood. Ben remarks he would love to spend one Saturday in his dad’s shoes, while Bill says the same about Ben, causing Annabel and Ellen to get nervous and suggest that Bill and Ben do not want to switch places, but they simultaneously and indignantly say “Oh, yes, I do!”, much to Ellen and Annabel’s chagrin.

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