What a great movie. Watching this DVD is my first introduction to this film and I am extremely impressed. One of the most entertaining and outstandingly fun films I’ve seen in a very long time--a solid laugh-fest that had me rolling at-or-beyond Finding Nemo levels. I had expected a film with modest entertainment value with the usual list of flaws for a “B” grade flick…you know the type: thos modern “funny” movies with plot lines that are inconsistent and cobbled together with generally poorly written dialogue that even good actors can’t manage to overcome. But not only did Freaky Friday not have the flaws that I was anticipating, it didn’t even stop at neutral—it is genuinely good.
I had never seen the “original” 1970’s version, but I was already familiar with the premise of the story from all the trailers (yes, those beloved forced trailers on all those Disney DVDs ) I’ve seen: A mother (Jamie Lee Curtis) and daughter (Lindsay Lohan) who are having a tough time understanding, and more importantly, respecting each other, wake up one morning to discover that they have swapped bodies…or consciousnesses (whichever you prefer). Naturally this becomes a fertile vehicle for some humor-laden situations and Freaky Friday is enormously successful in this regard; prepare to laugh out-loud. But having a great sense of humor doesn’t mean that this film takes shortcuts or becomes superficial. Freaky Friday delivers some first-class character development (I found myself being reminded of the TV series “My So Called Life”) and intelligent dialogue. Jamie Lee Curtis and Lindsay Lohan provide some astounding performances. And finishing it off, Freaky Friday resolves the 97 minutes of conflict with a few touching scenes that wrap all of the crazy action up into a nice and tidy emotional bow.
Those of you with kids might be worried about too much sexual humor for the family. Rest easy…while some of the comedy and circumstances deal with adult- topics, everything is tastefully restrained and language use is mild. I think that most parents could comfortably watch this film with their families without having to reach for the remote to avoid any objectionable material. The fact that Freaky Friday can pass with a friendly PG rating without feeling dumbed-down puts it up there with films from a bygone era that entertained with intelligence and wit rather than depending on cheap tricks or vulgarity.
Freaky Friday delivers.
I only had a chance to screen this title on my 16x9 direct-view. Overall the image looks satisfying with perhaps a few problems, and I have not ever viewed a projected film-print of this title so my comments should be interpreted with this in mind.
When you start the disc up you get a menu asking which version of the movie you’d like to watch…WS or full-frame. You also see an image/icon displaying a shot from the film in both versions to illustrate the difference. Beware HTF faithful…this is a soft-matte movie and so the “full frame” is not truly pan-and-scan and indeed the added top/bottom picture information is visible in the "full frame" image icon on the aspect-ratio-selection menu. This is therefore not the movie to pull out to try to demonstrate the virtue of widescreen if you have friends over who need to be educated as “why are there black bars?” -- they’ll look at you unimpressed when they discover that those black bars are indeed covering the top and bottom of their picture as they had always suspected. Be sure to warm up widescreen newbies with a few easy wins like a hard-matte 2.35 movie before getting into open-matte 4x3 territory. Ok, next topic…picture quality.
First the good: Freaky Friday had excellent black level, good contrast, color saturation, and a generally rich, 3-dimensional picture. Film grain is evident but no doubt an artifact that is faithful to the source elements so not to be regarded as a problem. The image appears generally smooth and natural with a somewhat stylized color-palette that tends towards warm. This later characteristic can be seen more easily when comparing against some of the same scenes from the movie captured “on video” in the bonus materials.
Some negatives: On my display, blacks appeared to be slightly crushed (dark black tended to swallow up shadow detail) and the image appeared a little dim/overly dark in general. It’s hard to try to evaluate image detail on a 34” screen because the shadowmask of the tube and beam-spot-size of the CRT guns get in the way…but my impression is that Freaky Friday might be a tad over-filtered to ease in compression, which at times reveals artifacts no doubt in part due to the fact that both the 16x9 OAR WS and 4x3 open-matte version have been encoded on the same side of this dual-layer disc. Nevertheless, I applaud Disney for providing both aspect ratio options on the same disc purchase (I’m a big fan of having both versions available on one disc purchase and personally do not like dual-release strategies) and folks shouldn’t be frightened away…overall compression is handled fairly well.
The most obvious problem with the image mastering is the one that continues to plague many DVD releases and is the one that could be so easily avoided: Edge Enhancement. The image has a generally “soft” look (partially due to filtering?) and it appears that some mastering minds conspired to turn a sharpening dial up a notch or two too high. The ringing only became obvious when I got close to my direct-view…closer than 2 screen-widths away. I think that folks with front-projection systems will notice some occasional ringing but hopefully it won’t look too distracting in most scenes. Folks watching on smaller displays or from a farther viewing ratio will probably not see the artifact, but that’s no excuse for such easily avoidable image artifacts (yes, this disc bears the highly-touted THX logo. I won’t go there ). Bad Disney!
Overall: A generally nice picture with a few artifacts that may distract front-projection and other large-screen viewers in certain scenes…
Picture: 4/ 5
The English 5.1 mix is satisfying and musical numbers are nicely spread across the front three channels. However I was disappointed in the lack of surround activity; there were some scenes where I expected to hear more 360 degree envelopment but the sound always seemed strongly anchored up front. I realize this is a matter of taste given the folks at the mixing board but still. Frequency response is wide and bass use is substantial in a few key scenes where appropriate. Dialogue is clearly rendered and voices sound natural and non-fatiguing. The guitar solos in some of the musical numbers sound especially sweet without any overly-bright edge. A basically “good” soundtrack given the genre of this film though I would have liked a slightly improved sense of atmosphere that I think a more involved, yet tasteful, manipulation of the surround channel may have afforded.
Bottom line: Sound is fine but don’t expect it to replace your Fifth Element Diva Scene for demo material.
Sound: 4/ 5
The behind-the-scenes featurette (4x3) is the standard fare for this sort of film…and that’s a good thing. It’s entertaining, gives you some bits of candid conversation with the actors, director, and rest of the team and is worth watching.
There is one “official” deleted scene that I enjoyed checking out but more interesting were the “alternate endings” that, effectively, constitute a kind of deleted scene. These alternate endings each get an intro by the director and I have to say that I thought that the second alternate ending would have been better (IMO) than the final choice for the film. The final choice for the film can also be accessed from this special features area and what seems to happen is that the disc cues up the film…the 4x3 open matte version…at the same starting point of the two alternate endings and then it plays through the credits. Would have like for Disney to have opted for the WS version of the “ending” to play given that both the deleted scenes are WS…but small quibbles my friends. In any case, linking back to the active feature-film content for this feature makes an efficient use of bit-space on the disc so I applaud the effort in that regard.
There are two music videos on the disc both 4x3 lbxed with 5.1 audio and sound decent (seems to mostly come from the front L/R speakers…the center is underutilized as is common practice with many music-oriented 5.1 mixes though I disagree with this practice). “What I like about you” performed by Lillix and “Me vs. the world” performed by Halo Friendlies. I’m not the one to judge the musical/artistic merit of these two videos, but they seem fine to me. Could I ask a question though? Music-video makers…if you KNOW that you’re making a 1.78:1 music video…why not go 16x9 to use full resolution rather than mastering as a 4x3 lbxed image? Most video gear these days can go 16x9 just as easily as 4x3 so let’s try pressing that button and add in 1/3 more image resolution for those of us with 16x9-compatible displays.
There’s a blooper reel which is cute.
Overall seems to me a nice supply of extras rounding out a decent DVD presentation. I guess one could complain that the trailer is missing...but I'm sure you can find it (right at the beginning) on several of your other Disney DVDs so don't fret.
Good humor. Good writing and acting. An immensely entertaining film that’s intelligent and decidedly well executed, Freaky Friday has also got some good repeat-viewing value. One of those have-a-good-time movies you can count on to please when everyone’s debating what movie to watch. Two thumbs up. Highly recommended by yours truly!