Rated PG - Running time: 2:07 - Released 7/29/98

It had to happen. After a long string of abysmally bad rehashes, Disney has finally turned out one whose quality matches its predecessor. The Parent Trap, which was produced by the original "Mickey Mouse organization" in 1961, is back with '90s sensibilities and a new little actress who seems born to carry off the role(s). Lindsay Lohan plays identical twins Hallie Parker and Annie James, who meet after being separated at birth and conspire to reunite their long-divorced parents. Lohan is cute and charming, as would be expected, but she also brings a street-savvy quality to both her roles, and distinguishes them well enough for us to tell the difference, even if no one in the movie can.

Neither Hallie from California nor Annie from London is wanting for the better things in life. But they both long for the one thing they lack: a two-parent household. Hallie's father Nick (Dennis Quaid) runs a Napa vineyard and employs a cook/housekeeper named Chessy (Lisa Ann Walter). Annie's mother Elizabeth (Natasha Richardson) is a famous London clothing designer with a faithful butler named Martin (Simon Kunz).

Hallie and Annie meet at a summer camp in Maine, and after a period of vicious competition, become fast friends. Neither have an inkling they might be related until they compare stories and photographs. Each has only one picture of her single parent: half an 8x10, torn in two many years before. When they match halves and see their mom and dad together, they decide they must organize a reunion. They plan to switch places at the end of camp and masquerade as each other until they've gotten to know their long lost parents. Then they will own up to the plot, and their folks will be forced to reunite, if only to switch them back.

The plan seems to be working fine until Nick tells Annie (thinking she's Hallie) that he's decided to marry again. His intended is Meredith Blake (Elaine Hendrix), a beguiling fashion plate. But Meredith turns out to be a two-faced gold digger who only wants Nick for his money and who definitely doesn't care for children. Annie calls Hallie in London and tells her they've got to hasten their plan. So the girls confess and the parents get back together. But the story's not over. They've still got to get Meredith out of the picture, and convince Nick and Elizabeth that they still love each other.

This movie succeeds on the strength of its actors. Nancy Meyers and Charles Shyer's script isn't going to win any awards; it's just a warmed up version of the 1961 model by David Swift. But Lohan really carries the show, and the adult cast members are also likeable and sincere. Hendrix's character of Meredith is the only one who is a stereotype, and she is the least believable. But the two parents are both easy and attractive, and the servant characters are also very much like real people, especially Walter's Chessy.

The premise is a little thin, since we aren't really given a satisfactory reason why the two adults ever split up. Nick seems perfectly willing to reunite despite his nuptial plans, and Elizabeth, who says she never wanted to see Nick again, practically melts at the sight of him. They're both such good parents to their only daughter, it seems ridiculous they wouldn't want to ever know what's happening with the other one. But the story is full of adventurous mischief, and Lohan brings a lot of energy to her two roles, resulting in a fun 2 hours. And that's saying a lot, given Disney's recent non-cartoon track record. ****

Copyright 1998 by John R. McEwen and The Republican

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