Setting The Parent Trap on DVD

Lindsay Lohan, Dennis Quaid, Natasha Richardson, Elaine Hendrix, Lisa Ann Walter, Simon Kunz. Directed by Nancy Meyers. Aspect ratio: 1.85:1 (widescreen). Dolby Digital 5.1. 128 minutes. 1998. Walt Disney Home Video 16888. PG. $24.95.

I watched Hayley Mills in the original of The Parent Trap, when the best seat in the house meant sitting crossed-legged on the floor at "you'll-go-blind" distances from the TV. Well, Disney just gave my kids the same opportunity with this freshly updated remake. I even went through the trouble of finding a copy of the 1961 original on laserdisc, and though the archetype has its charms, the new version is better.

The affable Dennis Quaid as Nick Parker, and the refreshing Natasha Richardson as his ex-wife, Elizabeth James, make do in this comedic study that puts the fun back in "dysfunctional." Thirty years ago Hayley Mills was the child star playing the part of twins. That's a hard act to follow, but Lindsay Lohan is more than Hayley's equal. In fact, the thing that impressed me most was her command of two Englishes—British and American.

For those of you who had to go to bed before The Wide World of Disney came on at eight on Sunday nights, here's the story: Separated practically at birth and exiled to opposite shores of the pond by feuding parents, Halley Parker and Annie James share a new womb at summer camp. There they discover the awful truth: 11 years ago their parents divorced, and as part of the settlement separated the twins as well.

Halley and Annie plot to switch places so that each girl can spend time with her estranged parent. Halley goes to London, Annie to the Napa Valley, where she finds out that Dad is about to marry Meredith Blake (Elaine Hendrix), a golddigger. Panic sets in, and a couple of transatlantic phone calls result in a transatlantic flight designed to reunite their parents before the unthinkable happens.

The comparisons between the old Parent Trap and the new are unavoidable. The new film borrows heavily from the original: their running times are within one minute of each other, the jokes have been updated, and the heartstrings are tugged even harder. Lisa Ann Walter as Chessy, Halley's Nanny, gets the funniest and most emotional lines, and pulls them off beautifully. Little Lindsay is cute, charming, freckled, and diabolical. Your kids will love her. So will you.

If this were a laserdisc, I'd say Disney's transfer was excellent, but in these days of sterling anamorphic DVDs, Parent Trap's non-enhanced transfer rates no more than a very strong B+. A few scenes show mild artificial edge enhancement, black levels are extremely good, and colors are rich and wonderful. The picture is sharp yet still filmlike. The 5.1 Dolby Digital soundtrack is very clean, and many of the old classics from Ray Charles and Nat King Cole never sounded better.

There aren't many films you can watch with your kids, and Buena Vista's catalog is just as guilty of family-value dilution as anyone else's. But sometimes they just get it so right. Thanks, Mickey.