The first time around, in 1976, it was with Barbara Harris and Jodie Foster. The second time, in a 1995 TV project, it was Shelley Long and Gaby Hoffman.

The first one was funny and fluffy and played with an original idea -- a young girl and her mom just aren't seeing eye to eye. Something magical happens, and suddenly they've switched bodies. For one day, mom has to live her daughter's life and, well, you know the rest. Both Harris and Foster were terrific in their parts. I've read nothing but bad reports of the TV version, but can't comment on it, having not seen it.

This latest version -- starring Lindsay Lohan, who was quite good as twins in the remake of The Parent Trap, and Jamie Lee Curtis, who proves once again how talented she is -- works wonders with what has now become a formula, what with so many other movies ripping off the plot.

The film kicks off with a nice little switch of its own. The song "Happy Together," sung by the Turtles, abruptly segues into a much harder rock version by Simple Plan. It's a good introduction to what's going to happen.

Mom is a busy, often distracted psychologist who sometimes resorts to talking on two cell phones at once. Her daughter, Anna, is a busy, often distracted high schooler who plays guitar in a struggling rock band. There is much bickering between the two.

But bickering is an understatement for what goes on between Anna and her little brother, Harry (Ryan Malgarini). The film's major running gag is about what a pest Harry can be.

There's a lot of introducing of characters and situations in the film's first half hour. Mom is a widow who's about to get married. The groom-to-be is the impossibly wonderful Ryan (Mark Harmon). Grandpa (Harold Gould) comes for a timely visit. Anna's pals get serious about the band. And Hunky Jake (Chad Michael Murray) and Anna just might be making eyes at each other.

There's just too much going on in that first half hour, and the film gets bogged down. But the mother-and-daughter bickering is always at the center, and at the half-hour point, just after Anna announces she won't be able to attend the wedding rehearsal dinner, things go ballistic. Then something happens. Then it's the next morning. They don't know it, but there's been a switch. And the film kicks into gear, becoming really funny, not just kind of funny.

Both of these actors are completely into their parts and play them with abandon. They both give great line delivery and facial reactions, and they both get involved with some pretty wild physical comedy. Lohan is still new to the acting game, so no judgment or comparisons can yet be made on her abilities. But this is certainly one of Curtis' best roles.

With slapstick at the center, and subtlety pretty much nonexistent, mom (in Anna's body) goes off to school, where she has to deal with a mean teacher and some nasty classmates, and Anna (in mom's body) goes shopping with a credit card. She also has to go to her office, resulting in one of the few instances where the film doesn't hold up to its expectations. The scenes with her patients could have been either funny or serious, but they're rushed over and are inconsequential. Things do get a little serious at school when mom chats with Anna's friends and finds out a lot about herself.

But good laughs are never far. The best reactions come from Harry when he first notices that something is wrong. He knows that something is astray when mom (really his big sister) suddenly becomes a jerk to him. There's less humor in the disillusioned reactions that come from soon-to-be-husband Ryan. But how often does a script come along with a good, disparaging Stevie Nicks joke?

A side story about Jake being attracted to both mom and Anna at different times isn't focused enough and doesn't pan out, and there are a couple too many age-ist jokes concerning grandpa. But the film offers a refreshing take on a familiar family problem -- trying to understand each other.

A Movie Night of Remembrance: The Woman King @ Magic Lantern Theatre

Thu., Dec. 1, 7:30 p.m.
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