I have seen every version of Freaky Friday (that I know of). I grew up with the Lindsay Lohan/Jamie Lee Curtis 2003 remake, and I saw the original Jodie Foster-Barbara Harris ‘70s movie at a young age. Earlier in the pandemic, I watched the ‘90s movie with Shelley Long and Gaby Hoffman. And now, I’ve seen the 2018 musical DCOM version.
The film was based on an actual stage musical, which itself is based on the other Disney movies and Mary Rodgers’ book that started it all. Heidi Blickenstaff was the first to play the role of the mom, Katherine, onstage, and she was cast for the DCOM. Her daughter Ellie is played by Cozi Zuehlsdorff in the film.
The more recent Freaky Fridays require the classic mother-daughter body switch element, with the added twist that the mom is getting remarried and needs to get switched back ASAP. In this movie, Ellie’s soon-to-be stepdad Mike is played by Alex Desért (Eli Williams from Boy Meets World!). Her little brother Fletcher is Jason Maybaum from Raven’s Home. The family scene is set at the beginning of the movie, with chaos before the kids leave for school. Katherine is catering her own wedding and has an argument with Ellie that turns into the song “Just One Day.” This is where mom and daughter wish the other would change. They switch bodies when they hang onto an hour glass that was a gift from Ellie’s late father.
As in all Freaky Fridays, mom has to be a teenager again, and daughter must try to function as an adult (and a parent). If Ellie can’t pull off her mom’s homemade wedding, it will be detrimental to the family’s finances. Katherine doesn’t have as much to lose in Ellie’s body, but she does contend with a typical over-the-top DCOM mean girl.
To get myself hyped for this modern musical, I listened to Podcast from Planet Weird’s episode about it. They had me on the lookout for a couple of strange songs. “Oh, Biology” takes place while Katherine (in Ellie’s body) is at high school on dissection day. She can’t control her attraction to a teenage boy and sings, “Oh biology! What have you done to me? Why can’t my grown-up brain control my teenage parts?” Yeah, Disney Channel said “parts.”
The other song I was waiting for was “Parents Lie,” one that Ellie sings to her brother Fletcher while in Katherine’s body. Of course, Fletcher thinks his mother is singing this song to him, all about how parents lie to their kids and tell them they’re special when they aren’t. Ouch!
One other note I completely agree with from the Podcast from Planet Weird episode relates to the fact that before the body-switching, Ellie asks her mom to let her miss the wedding rehearsal dinner. In the 2003 Freaky Friday, Lindsay Lohan’s character wants to skip the dinner to perform with her band at the House of Blues. In this movie, Ellie wants to join her school friends in a tradition with the somewhat cringey name “The Hunt.” A scavenger hunt doesn’t seem like a good enough reason to miss your mother’s rehearsal dinner.
However, Katherine has to participate in The Hunt while in Ellie’s body — the key to switching back is to get the family’s second hourglass, which Katherine had previously sold. With the help of Ellie’s two friends, Katherine gets the glass and switches bodies with her mom just in time. I never thought too much about the actual process of body-switching in movies. In this film, the point is made that one’s body is sacred. Removing a soul from a body and having it inhabit another would be rather uncomfortable. Disney Channel utilized body switching a few times, but this instance of it might be the most thought-provoking.
I will admit that it took me some time to get into this movie, but I think that’s because there were already three great Freaky Friday films, and I was initially skeptical of a musical version. But I am glad I watched this. It was a nice pre-Halloween movie because of some light foliage, too.