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NOW PLAYING: Freaky Friday / Freddy vs. Jason

Posted: Tuesday, August 26, 2003

Tops at the box office this weekend were a horror fan's trifecta: Freddy Krueger, the clawed, sweater-wearing wisecracker from Nightmare on Elm Street, versus Jason Voorhees, the machete-wielding teen-morality police/goalie from hell of Friday the 13th, versus Jamie Lee Curtis, scream queen and long-time foil for that other horror series, Halloween. Ok, granted, Curtis isn't actually in the same movie with her two antagonists, nor is Disney, her current employer, likely to welcome the gratuitous nudity and generous bloodletting that her early career encouraged. No matter. Her film is doing battle at the box office and that's good enough for me.

Freddy vs. Jason is an idea that has long been swimming around Hollywood, but, until recently, has been languishing in development hell. It was relatively early on, in fact, in the double decade careers of our two titular maniacs, that it was suggested that they do battle. The idea was a throwback, really. Kind of a Wolfman Meets Frankenstein kind of thing, the cheesiness of which may have been part of the reason it didn't get off the ground. Then, in 1993, the supposed last Friday flick, Jason Goes to Hell, ends with a major tease - Freddy Krueger's gloved hand bursting from the ground and dragging Jason's infamous hockey mask under. Wow. And, though it's taken ten years to make good on the promise, New Line Cinema has finally delivered.

FvJ is the kind of movie that isn't really intended to win over any new converts. Therefore, if you don't like slasher movies, don't bother. This movie is more a love-letter to the fans. And love it they will, I imagine. The basic premise is thus: Freddy Krueger, denied his primary victims - the teens of Elm Street - due to some creative information control combined with plentiful pharmaceuticals, finds and recruits Jason to go and jumpstart people's nightmares. Once started, however, Jason is loath to leave the killing to his scarred benefactor, and the battle royale ensues. Actually, the film was better before the fighting started, which is just about midway through. I realize this is what the fans have been waiting for, but once Jason stabs Freddy and he does likewise, you realize that a conventional battle is somewhat pointless. After all, neither killer can actually die - otherwise, why would we have nearly ten installments of each series? The writers try to overcome this by bring Freddy into the real world, but it feels somewhat forced. I won't spoil the ending, but if you've seen any of these movies, you can already guess, I'm sure. The only surprise they didn't come up with was having Jamie Lee dispatch them both. I mean, c'mon, she took out Michael Meyers with a coat hanger for goodness sake.

Curtis' latest film, the Disney remake of its own Freaky Friday, doesn't actually afford her the opportunity to do battle with any psycho killers, but does allow her to take on a much more frightening force - her teenage daughter. Friday (Freaky, not the 13th) updates the story from the 1976 version, but doesn't really change anything. A spoiled teen and a self-involved mother are forced to, literally, walk in the other's shoes to learn the value of selflessness and mutual respect. The two wake the morning after a terrible fight in a mysterious chinese restaurant to find that each is trapped in the other's body. It's a story that's been told often and badly, but, in this case, the cliche works. This Friday is sweet, fresh, and fun to watch.

Though it took me a little bit to get into the film - the early acting is a little clunky - once it hooked me, I was hooked. Much of the appeal of this film, all, in fact, is due to the wonderful chemistry of its two stars, Curtis and relative newcomer Lindsay Lohan. The seventeen-year old, who you may remember from that other Disney remake, The Parent Trap, steals the show playing both mother and daughter roles with ease and charm. I could complain about this movie - the teens are a little too hip, the adults a little too dumb, and the situations way too contrived. For example, all the teachers in our hero's high school are glassy-eyed burnouts. I know from personal experience that that would really only number around half. And, I know of very few high school garage bands that could compete with Matchbox Twenty for cool. But why complain about little things like that? This movie isn't a mirror for society; it's a fable, and a fairly simple one at that. Trying to attach too much importance to the particulars is to lose the meaning, and the fun.

Watching these two films has given me a great idea. Let's combine the concepts. Let's have, say, Indiana Jones meet up with Lara Croft, and then switch bodies. Or how about Austin Powers and James Bond? I know I'm on to something here - now if only the studios will call me back. Grade: Freddy vs. Jason, B-; Freaky Friday, B+

Freddy vs Jason is rated R for excessive violence, nudity, language, and sexual situations. Freaky Friday is rated PG-13 for wacky teen hijinks. You make the call.

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