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The Parent Trap: Lindsay Lohan shines in breakout role as a pair of conniving twins

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Performing a dual role in her first ever film, a 12-year-old Lohan cuts through the Disney of it all with charm, star power and a whole slew of pranks

  • The Parent Trap is streaming in Australia on Disney+. For more recommendations of what to stream in Australia, click here

The Parent Trap is a charming 1998 family film that will appeal to adults and kids alike, but please don’t use it as an instructional manual on how to raise children.

An American winery owner and a British dressmaker enjoy a whirlwind romance and a quickfire wedding, only to get divorced shortly after the birth of their twin daughters. Rather than work out a shared custody deal, they instead decide it is in the best interests of their baby girls to split the twins up, take them to different sides of the world and then never inform either of the existence of the other. And if that wasn’t traumatising enough, neither daughter is given any information about their absent parent, being raised in a world of repression and whispers.

Being a Disney film, any parental deceit is swept under the rug, as are the logistics that see both children coincidentally sent to the same remote summer camp a few months shy of their 12th birthdays.

Much like the 1961 original on which this version is based, the two sisters are played by one young actor Lindsay Lohan in her stunning film debut – and the girls take an instant dislike to each other. A series of escalating and unlikely pranks ensue – including one in which a tween is somehow able to hoist an entire cabin’s worth of furniture, bunk beds and all, on to the roof and glue it all in place – and the two are punished by being kept alone in an isolated cabin on the edge of camp for the remainder of their time away (some eight weeks) without adult supervision. (Then again, a previous scene allowed them to sword-fight, so this was never the most well-managed camp.)

It is here in isolation that they start to like each other, discovering they are twins (Disney magic precluded them from realising this beforehand, despite being identical). A plan is hatched to swap identities, each going home in the other’s place to surreptitiously get to know the parent they were denied – with bouts of intense displacement, feelings of betrayal and anger seemingly not a concern for these two li’l cuties.

Eventually the parents discover the ruse, and short of being even mildly apologetic for the lifetime of deception, both are simply put out by this cross-continental annoyance. The twins conspire again, this time to get their parents together in the same place at the same time, while also ridding their father of his gold-digging, child-hating, Cruella-style girlfriend – who is really blocking their happily ever after.

Sword-fighting sans supervision: Lindsay Lohan faces off with herself at summer camp. Photograph: Walt Disney Pictures/Allstar

The rest of the film is a series of mishaps, hijinks, mislaid plans and disasters. And, obviously, a happy ending. It’s such an enjoyable movie that the Disney of it all actually adds to the appeal.

This is also, by far, the best performance Lindsay Lohan has ever committed to celluloid: remarkable considering it’s not only her debut but that she’s performing two roles – one with a believable British accent, the other as a knock-about tomboy – and doing so largely to a green screen. It’s quite amusing, too, that Lohan was cast in this double role, given that the biggest young stars at the time were literally a set of 12-year-old twins. But while the Olsens were lovably wooden, I cannot stress how lovably brilliant Lohan is here.

Turn a blind eye to the series of parental flaws that would have both parents on speed-dial at Docs and you are left with an off-kilter comedy that is impossible not to be charmed by. A lovely side romance between the parents’ respective butlers is the real beating heart of this film, along with the stunning chemistry Lohan is able to manage with herself.

Lawrence U

A Blogger, Graphic Designer and internet Marketer with full passion to Assist Beginners to Grow in the Internet Marketing Industry.