There must have been invisible cotton candy spun into the 35 mm during filming, because I have rarely experienced a film so sweet and satisfying. Optimistic, clever, upbeat, the pure example of feel-good film, The Parent Trap has all the perks and wit of the original 1961 classic starring Hayley Mills, but is enhanced with more-focused themes, deeper heartfelt messages, more believable acting, and a hip enough script to be accepted by contemporary kids living in post-Flower-Power generations. This movie literally crackles at the seams with goodness, reminding us that when Disney puts its heart and mind into creating quality entertainment, it is untouchable. I am proud to say that this 1998 Parent Trap is more than just a 90's facelift: it remains the finest remake I have ever seen. Director Nancy Meyer's deep respect for source material is obvious, as she went the extra mile to craft a comedy comfortable to view, never jarring or confusing viewers. This is also the bittersweet last hurrah from longtime Disney producer/director David Swift, who produced not only the heartwarming/heart-wrenching classic Pollyanna, but (surprise!) the original 1961 Parent Trap. The touchy themes of marriage and divorce are handled in a far more down-to-earth fashion than the original film, which danced around the subjects through frequent slapstick and laughs, instead of bravely facing the issues. In essence, this new-fangled 1998 Parent Trap took a spritely romantic-comedy leaning towards comedy and turned it into a smart, elegant romantic-comedy leaning towards the romantic. A boatload of changes with the script and storyline are taken to differentiate itself from the original; these changes, both big and small, pay off nicely, perhaps because of Swift's attempt to polish his past attempt. The changes show the determination to not just re-tell the story, but to improve it when necessary. The decision to make the girls international travelers, Hallie from sunny old Napa and Annie from prim and proper England, upped the stakes in their mutual decision to switch places; this also added more sensation and excitement to the girls' journeys into new settings. I don't know where they filmed the location shots for Hallie and Nick's hacienda-style homestead, but the Spanish-stucco eden was picturesque, contemporary, and makes me green with envy upon every viewing. The romantic dinner boat in front of shimmering city lights was, in turn, breathtaking. The decision to place the late Natasha Richardson's gown-designing Elizabeth James smack-dab in England, (instead of the relatively localized Boston,) made her prominent, important, exotic in the eyes of an 11-year old, and most importantly, unobtainable to Dennis Quaid's Nick Parker. I found myself adoring the ripped photograph motif, the crucial moment in which both girls realize they are identical twins separated at birth; their action of counting to three and holding up each half at the same time is a strikingly powerful and appropriate symbolic reminder of the fragility and easily-tearable nature of romantic relationships, as well as how two girls, who are given the pieces to the marital puzzle by complete fate, can repair this relationship by simply showing the bravery to put both torn halves together. Maybe it was sense of completion when the two halves of ripped celluloid meet, maybe it was the unforgettable expression on the faces of Lindsay Lohan and Lindsay Lohan, maybe it was their duel exclamation of teary-eyed "oh my god,"'s but something gave me chills in this pivotal scene. True, Hayley Mills had a similar moment, for the same reason, but this version conveyed more emotion. Filmmakers' decision to de-age the main protagonist from 13 to 11 was also a brilliant move, as Hayley Mill's performance and developing physique seemed too mature for the mischievous nature of the character(s) she portrayed; in turn, Mill's Flower-Power attitude, the 60's-I-can-prove-my-generation-is-in-control took away much of her innocence. In Lohan's case, innocence and purity are undeniable, and her balance of cute and intelligent is a version of preteen girl Hollywood can no longer manage these days. If Hayley Mills was the self-serving trickster demon of Norse mythology, Lindsay Lohan would be the Virgin Mary: innocent, and bearer of great hope for sinful others. But not to push some kind of Christian allegory, Lindsay Lohan is still a kid, and acts like a kid. She yanks her yellow duffle bag out of a pile of luggage instead of merely removing bags from the top; she sticks her face out of a cab window and waves at statues, she boogies around with her butler to an inventive, secret handshake; she wears beaded bracelets, paints her nails blue, finds friendship in toy bunnies, and jumps into a lake naked. Lindsay Lohan's outstanding first role in a feature film is, arguably, her best performance to date. She pulls off her English accent and prissy mannerisms quite nicely, and delivers the same level of professionalism when confronting adult characters. And a special shout-out should be given to the special effects team who managed to integrate Lohan's double image seamlessly, truly making me believe that there are two Lindsay Lohans in this world. Reinvented supporting characters are just as well-played, as parents are just as important to the plot as the freckle-faced match-makers. Dennis Quaid's Nick Parker is now a good-looking, dashing gentleman, who is actually outgoing, and fun to be around. This is a dream dad, and if I were an 11-year-old girl, I would feel at home being hugged by this guy every day. Even more significant is the mom character; Natasha Richardson's Elizabeth James is no mean, short-fused, Irish redhead who resorts to punching ex-husbands in the eye; now, she is an independent, smart, likable, individual, who is just as nuanced and humorous as Dennis Quaid. They admit during the romantic boat dinner that neither remembered the exact reason for their split, though one nasty after-effect involved the throwing of a hair-dryer. This is much more believable than the 1961 original's lame excuse of personality clashes, (which begs the question: SHOULD this couple be reunited?) Scriptwriters cleverly avoided the issue because, quite frankly, nobody cares how they split. By not remembering the crux of the argument also shows that the marital split was just a grown-up quarrel, positive proof that seemingly intelligent adults have less good judgment than their own kids. I strongly believe that the pacing and timing was handled much better in this 1998 remake, with changes adding more punch to scenes. Just as fisherman wait before reeling in their prized catches, the crucial timing unrolled important scenes with maximized emotional fireworks. One humorous example would be the extended lizard moment during the camping trip; here, the lizard not only frightens Elaine Hendrix's Meridith, but also crawls over the woman's face, but ends up inside her loud mouth. Another example is the invention of new roles, Simon Kunz's English butler Martin and Lisa Ann Walter's housekeeper/cook Chessy, whose intertwined love affair 3/4 through the film provided yet another thread to tie the broken little family together; their presence also provides fresh humor, and is a strong visual reminder that love-at-first-sight relationships are not limited to good-looking main protagonists. Perhaps the biggest proof of the outstanding pacing in this movie is the whole "small world" web of intertwined relationships during the long hotel sequence. Meredith "knew" Natasha Richardson's character because of her wedding gowns, yet had no idea she was Nick Parker's ex-wife; Richardson's character had no idea Meredith was going to marry her ex-husband; both Meredith and Nick were clueless that Elizabeth James was on the property; and NOBODY was aware that a pair of preteen girls were pulling all loose threads tighter and tighter, as it was they who intentionally orchestrated the mix-up from the start. This relationship knot, replete with numerous deer-in-the-headlights-looks as characters spy on each around corners, between crowds of hotel guests, and through closing elevator doors, was hilarious. Gently played, and full of class and charm, but hilarious nonetheless. This buildup was like repeatedly shaking a can of soda pop before opening it, and it made Nick Parker's signature unplanned dip in the pool all the more anticipated. Again, as with Hayley Mill's performance mentioned earlier, no new ground is broken in this sequence, as the original went through a similar routine, but the original was not as tight, not as professionally-crafted, and not as fun. Minor pet peeves I had with the original are mended in this slick new version. Most notably is the scene when Nick and Elizabeth are seriously contemplating what to do with the girls, as, admitting they cannot separate them after already meeting, begin to relapse into the original's monologue about "six months split." To my delight, Chessy, posing as a waitress, immediately cuts this idealized fantasy short with: "Guys, they can't go to two schools every year!" Bravo, duh. I felt like patting her on the back, and I appreciated the filmmaker's guts to come out and say it so directly. Another home-run scene which the original shy-ed away from was during Annie's girl-to-woman conversation with demon fiancee Meredith. Annie, despite being a kid, is no fool to facts of life, and she comes out and just says it: "If you ask me, marriage is supposed to be based on something more than just sex, right?" Bravo. I felt like patting her on the back too. In addition to these two major mends, Lohan's more-realistic actions of unfamiliarity with new surroundings are also more apparent; in this version, she struggles to push the front door of her own house open, before realizing (too late) that the door opens inwards; it is little things like this, not big grandiose ones, that would unmask an imposter's true identity. My extensive praise for this film would be unfairly incomplete without mentioning Alan Silvestri's unforgettable score, where sweeping instrumental themes, (and I mean SWEEPING,) are interlaced with retro golden oldies, winking back to a simpler, more innocent era. Nearly every second of this film is seasoned with musical glee, and there are many winks to the 1961 original which many audiences may not catch. During the opening Disney logo, with the shimmering castle, we hear the distinct eight-note motif "Let's Get To-Ge-Ther- Yeah-Yeah-Yeah." Subtle, but clearly apparent if you know your Disney history. Also, during the touching moment in which Hallie meets her mom for the first time, she places her hand on the brass doorknob to her English apartment, and a the accompanying musical crescendo is strangely reminiscent to the scene Hayley Mills first meets Maurine O'Hara on the staircase. Like the extended toying-with-you scenes mentioned earlier, Silvestri does the same thing with the music; sparkly, grand entrances do no trail off, but melodiously lead into something big, touching, and tranquil, augmenting the tenderness tenfold. My only regret on the musical front is that Lindsay Lohan never breaks out into full song-and-dance routine as does her 1961 counterpart. True, she does half-hum, half-sing the "Let's Get Together" refrain while walking into an elevator shaft, but this is too brief. My only real complaint with The Parent Trap is that I wish many areas of dialogue had been reworded, as much is lifted directly from the original. As much as I adored Meyers/Swift's decisions and liberties with the original, I think additional tweaking with the script would have served the film well. In addition, several scenes towards the end tried too hard to connect with the original, such as Meredith's tapping sticks together to scare away mountain lions, which never really fits in this version. Finally, I could have lived without numerous pop-culture references, particularly those comparing Meredith to Cruella de ville, which seems like a cheap ploy by the studio to advertise their own brand. But apart from these minor complaints, The Parent Trap is a heartwarming effort and, in my humble opinion, the studio's most outstanding effort in the last decade of the 20th Century.