Upon the announcement earlier this year of the return of Jamie Lee Curtis and Lindsay Lohan in their roles as Tess and Anna Coleman for a follow-up to Freaky Friday, many fans, myself included, were delighted. I watched the initial movie in the cinemas in 2003 and received the DVD as a Christmas gift that year. I was captivated by Chad Michael Murray and deeply connected with Pink Slip’s track “Take Me Away.”
Revisting Freaky Friday as a Mother
My Initial Reaction: OMG I’m Tess Now
When revisiting beloved movies from the ‘80s and ‘90s, I often find that I now relate more to the parents than the children. I see myself as George Banks in Father of the Bride and as Miranda Hillard in Mrs. Doubtfire. Although I don’t see myself as tightly wound as Tess in Freaky Friday (and I definitely don’t deny myself french fries), there were moments in the movie when I really identified with her.
Whether it’s going through the day’s to-do list before opening my eyes in the morning, managing sibling rivalry, or trying to remain calm when my kids are literally screaming in my face, it all felt familiar. Seeing Tess trying to juggle work, parenting, and having a semblance of her own life resonated with me. When my daughter saw Tess juggling her Blackberry, pager, phone, and electronic organizer, she remarked, “So parents were still obsessed with screens back then?” I assured her that moms were overwhelmed trying to juggle everything back then, too.
I also had a moment of realization when Tess said something I tell my 11-year-old almost daily: “I don’t understand why you never wear your hair pulled back, now I can see your beautiful face.” Needless to say, my tween called me out on that, too.
However, the moment the two switch bodies is why this movie is a gem to revisit. Jamie Lee Curtis as a 15-year-old and Lindsay Lohan as a straight-laced mom are both perfect. I still laughed at all the jokes and cannot wait to see them back together in the sequel.
There Were a Few Aspects That Haven’t Aged Well
At the time, I was too distracted by Chad Michael Murray to realize how cringey his character Jake’s infatuation with Anna’s mom was. While it’s normal for moms to want to be admired like both Jake and Ryan, her fiancé, looked at Tess, knowing the age difference made both love interests, to quote my 11-year-old, “super awkward.” There were so many parts of the budding romance between Jake and Tess (as Anna) and Ryan that my daughter couldn’t even watch.
Then there’s Tess’s job as a psychiatrist. While it was great to see Stanford Blatch, I mean Willie Garson, on screen again as Tess’s patient Evan (I totally forgot he was in this movie!), the portrayal of mental health patients felt a bit outdated. The stigma around mental health care has improved significantly in 20 years and I want my daughter to know that seeing a therapist doesn’t mean you’re like the caricatures portrayed in this film.
Additionally, the portrayal of Asian stereotypes was also cringey. The overall premise of Freaky Friday was that it was caused by, to quote the movie, ”some strange Asian voodoo.” Yikes. I’m looking forward to seeing how screenplay writer Elyse Hollander will handle the swap better in the Freaky Friday sequel.
It Still Conveys a Strong Message
Ultimately, this is a movie about love and empathy.
The discussions that followed the movie were perhaps the most memorable part of watching Freaky Friday with my tween daughter. The idea of putting herself in my shoes and vice versa sparked some wonderful dialogue. For example, we agreed that I could never take her math tests—we have to watch video tutorials together for me to even assist her with her homework. She also thought about how she might navigate being me for a day—a shopping spree was in her imagination, just like Anna’s.
Putting yourself in another’s shoes is something all parents tend to emphasize when trying to raise good humans. While it doesn’t always get through, Freaky Friday compelled both my daughter and I to imagine another perspective, and I appreciated the movie even more for that.
It Opened the Door to Discussing Healthy Relationships
With a tween already discussing crushes and the first “relationships” happening at school, the movie was a good conversation starter for this next phase of her life. For example, I didn’t notice how Jake started acting like a stalker. My daughter did. “Why is he always following them?” she asked. ”Why won’t he just leave her alone?”
When Anna and Jake ended up together, part of me wanted to tell her, “This is not real life. Most of your crushes will be unrequited.” But I decided to cherish the happy ending, knowing she’ll learn that lesson in her own time.
The Moment Before They Switch Back Still Made Me Cry
One of the most touching scenes in the movie is Anna’s speech (as Tess) at the rehearsal dinner. It’s a moment of true understanding that still makes me emotional.
At that moment, I looked across the living room at my daughter laying on the couch—who now takes up almost five feet of space and who called me “weird” for crying—and I know we’re nearing a new chapter. There will be screaming (there already is), but I hope there’s also laughter and more shared moments like our Freaky Friday movie night. And I hope she’ll watch the Freaky Friday sequel with me after it comes out, when perhaps I’ll get to relate to Lindsay Lohan’s character once again.
Where to Watch the Original Freaky Friday
The original Freaky Friday is available to stream on Disney+ or available to rent or buy on Amazon Prime Video and Apple TV+.