tek's rating:

The Parent Trap (G)
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Caution: spoilers.

This came out in 1961 (fourteen years before I was born), and I must have seen it a number of times when I was a kid in the 80s. I'm writing this review after watching it again in 2020. (Earlier this year I watched an episode of Single Parents in which a pair of twins hated this movie. It was amusing.)

First of all I want to say that I liked the film more than I remembered liking it from when I was a kid. (Except for the animated opening sequence; I didn't particularly care for that.) Mostly I'd say the movie is a lot funnier than I remembered, at least in certain parts. Anyway, I'm not sure how much I need to say about the plot, because this is one of those movies that I feel like it's almost impossible that anyone has never seen, or at least heard of enough to already know the plot. But Hayley Mills plays twins who never knew each other (at least not since they were like one year old), and didn't know each other existed until they happened to meet at a summer camp when they're 13. Their parents, Mitch Evers (Brian Keith) and Maggie McKendrick (Maureen O'Hara) had divorced and each took one of the twins to live with them. It's said that Mitch lives in Monterey, though we only ever see his ranch in Carmel, while Maggie lives in Boston. Before I go any further in my review, I have to say that it's absolutely unconscionable that the twins were never told of each other's existence, and it's hard to believe basically decent people like Mitch and Maggie would be capable of making such a horrible decision. But, that being said, we'll just have to overlook it for the sake of the plot.

The first twin we meet is Sharon McKendrick, who has had a very prim and proper upbringing in Boston (where she lives, apparently not only with her mother but also her grandparents). But it's not long before she sees another girl at camp, Susan Evers, who's had a more outdoorsy upbringing with her father. (She's also friends with a couple of Mitch's employees, Verbena the housekeeper and Hecky the ranch foreman.) Anyway, a rivalry soon starts between the two girls, who despite being identical (except for their haircuts), don't immediately realize they're actually sisters. They get into trouble, and the camp's head counselor, Miss Inch, forces them to share a cabin with each other as punishment. After that, it doesn't take too long for them to start becoming friendlier, and they eventually realize the truth about themselves. So, they decide to switch places when camp ends. Sharon goes to stay with Mitch, while Susan goes to stay with Maggie. They plan to keep their true identities secret from their parents for a time, but to eventually reveal the truth to them. There are two reasons for this. First, they both want to get to know the parents they'd never known, and second, they want the parents to be forced to meet again when Maggie takes Susan back to California. They hope to rekindle their parents relationship, so they can be a whole family again. Oh, and I must mention that Susan had cut Sharon's hair to match Susan's own shorter haircut. And Sharon's grandmother, when she meets Susan-playing-Sharon, doesn't like it short. Which made me want to say "Woman, your hair is short too, what the heck?" Also I need to say that Sharon's grandfather eventually figures out that it's actually Susan who's come back to them. He's the sort of kindly and wise movie grandfather that I always like, which reminded me of The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer (actually the character there was a great uncle, but he was still the grandfatherly type). Meanwhile, in California, Sharon-playing-Susan is recognized as a different person by her dog, and Verbena also feels there's something "off" about her. Eventually Sharon confides the truth to her.

Anyway, Mitch is dating a woman named Vicky Robinson, who is basically a gold-digger. Sharon-as-Susan tries to break them up, but it isn't working, and when she learns that Mitch and Vicky are getting married soon, she gets the real Susan to confess her identity to Maggie sooner than they'd planned, so she'd bring Susan home in time to try to stop the wedding. Speaking of which, there's a minister named Reverend Dr. Mosby, whom I didn't remember before I re-watched the movie, but I found him to be a hilarious character. Aside from the girls working together to break up Mitch and Vicky, they also try to get their parents back together. And... I think that's all I want to say about the plot.

I'm sure I must be forgetting comments I wanted to make, but it's probably not that important. I'll just say I think all the actors did fine jobs with their characters. Oh... I just remembered that I wanted to mention it was Sharon who first figured out that she and Susan were sisters. She said at the time that her mother always says she's psychic, though I'm sure that wasn't meant very seriously, and it doesn't come up again in the movie. But at the end, Susan has a prophetic dream (you can tell it's her by the way she talks), and I had mixed feelings about it. On the one hand, I had been hoping, while watching the movie, that it would be Sharon who had the dream, because of the earlier "psychic" comment, so I was a bit disappointed that it was Susan. On the other hand, it could be seen as one more thing the twins have in common, which is kind of neat. And now I really can't think of any more to say.

There were three TV movie sequels, from 1986-89, which I don't think I ever saw, and have no real interest in. And there was a remake in 1998.

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