Recently I’ve been introducing my girls to the Disney canon of classic films. First up was The Parent Trap (the ’90s remake, LiLo for life), which I definitely hormonally sobbed my way through. The slow motion reuniting of each twin with their absentee parent, the zaddy-ness of Dennis Quaid at his snackiest, the comedic genius of Chessy, the antics played on Meredith Banks (Elaine Hendrix hive unite). All incredibly necessary to distract from the main plot of the movie….which is absolutely monstrous.
If you somehow missed the original PT or remake, the premise is that Nick Parker and Elizabeth James meet on the Queen Elizabeth II -a transcontinental ocean liner because they are afraid of flying (erm, have y’all heard about the Titanic that sailed on the same route?!), embark on a whirlwind romance, marry, have identical twin girls, decide to split for “reasons that are hazy” when the girls are 9-months-old. Liz hops on a plane with twin Annie for London and Nicky goes to Napa, California with Hallie, resolved never to see each other again.
DID YOU FORGET YOU BIRTHED TWO CHILDREN YOU SELFISH BASTARDS.
And like, we are introduced to MULTIPLE longtime employees/family members of Nicky and Liz who appear to be extremely opinionated. Not one of y’all was like, “Well that’s f’d.” You know Chessy said something. You just know.
And, ok, maybe you never want to hear or see one another again, but what about your OTHER CHILD. No updates on them? First steps, photos, first day of kindergarten reports, etc? If Hallie and Annie are born in the late ’80s there is no reason by the late ’90s Nicky couldn’t have fired up AOL 5.0, hopped on AIM, messaged Liz and, whilst she was typing, put up a cryptic away message about her LIKE WE ALL DID WITH OUR EX’S ON AIM – in a roundabout fashion to find out wuz ^ wit my other gurl.
Back to the plot, FF 10 years and 11-year-olds Hallie and Annie end up at the same unremarkable summer day camp in Maine, put two + two together and switch places so they can do what their selfish parents didn’t because truly there are no adults in this story.
The Parent Trap reinforces what I’ve always believed; never make major life decisions in the first year post baby(ies). Because, if you do, you may think that it makes total sense to abruptly divorce, choose a twin to take on the fly and separate them by an entire continent with the goal of never seeing them again. Have you met teenaged girls, particularly precocious freckled redheads? You never expected them to ask about their sperm donor/incubator? Nick and Elizabeth, you were about a decade or two away from getting SLAPPED by 23 & Me or whatever the DNA kit du jour that Hallie inevitably ordered with Nick’s corporate CC (lbh -it was always going to be Hallie).
It might sound harsh to question whether Nick and Elizabeth are the worst movie parents ever, so let’s look at the script for guidance.
Scene: On a “date” forced upon by the twins in the Second Act.
So, what do we do about the girls?
Well, I guess now that they’ve met, we can’t very well keep them apart. I could keep them half the year and you could–
No shit you can’t very well keep them apart WHY DID YOU DO SO IN THE FIRST PLACE?! Thank god Nick and Liz made it big in their respective –very easy to break into- fields of winemaking and wedding dress designing – because those children are going to require some serious therapy. Also, trade off the twins for half a year HAVE YOU EVER BEEN TO SCHOOL LIZ. Not to mention two entirely different school systems in two entirely different countries?! The metric system alone would trounce Hallie, she couldn’t even deduce without Annie telling her that they weren’t just sisters, they were twins.
Scene: Still on “the date” discussing why they broke up, the details of which are hazy
You know I may never be alone with you again, so… About the day you packed… Why did you do it?
Nick, we were getting along so badly, we found out we each had tempers, we said foolish things… So I packed… Got on my first 747 and… you didn’t come after me.
These are the kind of grand gestures you can bemoan an ex not doing for you with your BFF over a pint of Ben & Jerry’s, but not when it’s the man you married and you share TWO CHILDREN with. Also, who just lets their partner up and vanish with THEIR CHILD. How do they hold nary a resentment a decade later?
I get for the sake of keeping the movie short and storylines tidy, the whole “the reason we broke up is hazy” works as a plot device. It keeps it vague enough for the audience not to get upset about their breakup or makeup. We don’t really know the circumstances, so maybe all we really require to seal the deal at the end of the movie is a grand gesture and snog fest in front of their twins who, yes, want this very badly but they are CHILDREN and you could have figured out how to co-parent – and maybe you should have – without rushing into a SECOND marriage.
But is this really a happy ending? Happy for whom? I need a Nick & Liz prequel (R.I.P Natasha Richardson) and a FF to post-second wedding because I’m convinced this is actually a comedy of errors between two people not temperamentally suited for one another who never should have been together in the first place. What is the takeaway of this movie? Don’t worry, kids of divorced parents, you too can befuddle your parents into falling wildly in-love again with the assistance of a long lost sibling, an English butler and a mouthy live-in nanny. You, with the emotional maturity of a 12-year-old. They really love each other THEY JUST DON’T KNOW IT. Seriously this is never questioned throughout the entire movie. That maybe, while they didn’t make the best decision in terms of custody of the kids, they did make the best decision for themselves. Would they have reached their career goals enmeshed in a toxic relationship? Who would have failed (spoiler: probably the woman). And this is where I get confused and feel like Liz is kind of a feminist hero for saying, “F this, I’m out” and makes own way, but then just GOES DOWN THE SAME ROMANCE RABBIT HOLE ALL OVER AGAIN. I can’t believe I’m attempting to analyze this movie through a feminist lens. Forgive me, but it is 2021.
Speaking of years, it’s kind of amazing to think about how this movie does not work in the age of wireless internet, cell phones and social media. You know Hallie has a secret IG account Nicky knows nothing about and would discover Elizabeth James’ IG (run by an assistant of course) and seen pics of Liz and Annie (we need personalized content not just hard sells!) and Inspector Gadget-ed that shiz together. You know someone is dreaming up a third remake of this movie because nothing is new anymore and I’m sort of dying to see how it turns out and how you could set it 2022 or whenever the version with North West comes out (I’m sorry for putting that out into the ether).
The Parent Trap simply does not hold up. Did the original in the ’60s? I don’t know, it was the ’60s afterall. You have to suspend a ton of belief to get through the movie, but isn’t that sort of the joy of storytelling? And yet, despite questionable parenting decisions, it’s totally watchable and an utter delight. Everyone is flawed, but likeable (ok, except Meredith, who I’m only partial to because of the name, the killer dresses, and the love of a villan). While re-watching The Parent Trap with my kids I silently cried, I laughed and I crossed my fingers just as hard as Hallie and Annie for a happy ending. Whatever that means.