The Parent Trap II

The Parent Trap IISynopsis: In the full-length sequel The Parent Trap II, Hayley Mills returns to reprise her roles as identical twins Sharon and Susan. Now all grown up, Sharon is a single mom whose 11-year old daughter Nikki is just as mischievous as she was! During summer school Nikki and her new friend Mary turn into scheming matchmakers when they try to get Sharon and Mary’s widowed father together. Not quite able to make it happen, they turn to the one person who can really help – Sharon’s twin Susan!

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The Parent Trap II 7.0

eyelights: Tom Skerritt. its cleverly-written convolutions.
eyesores: its implausible third act. its cheap motion picture score.

“If their date is half as good as these cookies, we’ll be sisters in no time!”

Twenty five years after ‘The Parent Trap‘, the Disney Channel aired a sequel called ‘The Parent Trap II’, with Hayley Mills returning as Sharon and Susan. Set in Tampa, Florida, it tells the story of Sharon’s daughter Nikki’s attempt to hook up her mom with her best friend Mary’s dad to prevent her move to New York City. The TV movie was so popular that two further sequels were produced.

It’s actually not a bad telefilm, given that it was made in the mid-’80s and that it was made on a much lower budget than the original: the script is half-decent and the cast is surprisingly decent. For a TV movie. Made in the ’80s. I can’t stress that enough, because this also means that the picture was filmed on video (i.e. looks like crap) and that the music is shmaltzy generic garbage that hurts.

Thankfully, expectations were lowered right from the start with a cheesy montage of stills from the original movie to a f-ing horrendous theme song by Hal David and Marilyn McCoo. Cringe-worthy stuff. After that, everything was uphill (still, there were nonetheless some hilariously crap moments, such as a scene when Susan is shown walking in exhausted from the most feeble work out ever. Ha!).

The script was decent enough, and I was surprised by how effectively the writer (whose other most noteworthy piece of writing is a Pauly Shore movie)(seriously!) managed to make the convoluted plot plausible. He made the dialogues work in such a way that there was always just enough uncertainty for the characters to cling to so that the story could move ahead unimpeded. Not bad.

Of course, this was very much helped along by some excellent performances by all around and, most notably, by Mr. Smooth himself, Tom Skerritt. I can’t say that I’m always a fan of the actor, but here he delivered each line in such a natural, confident fashion that he anchored each scene he was in. And, since the plot revolves around his and Hayley Mills’ characters, he was an undeniable boon.

In my estimation, the picture would have been far weaker if not for his participation in it.

‘The Parent Trap II’ goes through many of the motions of the original film, throwing in mistaken identity gags a plenty and a lot of humour revolving around Nikki and Mary’s attempts to get the couple together, culminating with getting Susan to pretend to be Sharon to jump-start the relationship. As contrived as that might sound, even that was played in such a way that wasn’t entirely unbelievable.

Thankfully, Susan expressed reservations right from the onset, something I liked, because my initial reaction to the ploy was that Susan would be cheating on her own husband by going out on dates in Sharon’s stead (and without the latter’s knowledge, I might add!). Naturally, some humour is derived from the fact that Susan and Sharon’s personalities are totally different, causing some confusion.

The picture did a few other things that I was pleased with, including having a pretty decent moral centre. Although the two best friends are the masterminds of a romantic subterfuge, the consequences of their actions are credible and well felt. Kids do silly things sometimes, and much of what they do here isn’t impossible. But ‘The Parent Trap II’ shows that there is a flip side to each coin.

Another thing I liked about the film is its attempts at being tuned in to kids of the day. It’s hard for me to say, thirty years later, just how accurate it was then, but it seems to me that MTV already had an influence on kids back then and that pop culture was already a very important influence – so having the girls idolize Ralph Maccio and Rob Lowe seems contextually appropriate to me.

My favourite part of the whole picture, though, is when Sharon figures out what is going on behind her back and, instead of getting upset, decides to turn the tables on everyone, bringing Susan’s husband into the picture to render the latter jealous and throw a wrench into the girls’ plans. This was both forgiving and clever and it produced some of the most satisfying results of the film.

While ‘The Parent Trap II’ is by no means a masterpiece, I thought that it was enjoyable enough. Had it benefited from a world class production instead of a quick Sunday Night Movie production, a little tweak to the third act and some better direction, it could have been as good as the original. Still, it’s a movie that no doubt youngsters and their parents could have fun watching together.

Date of viewing: May 13, 2015

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