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The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this is the original 1961 version of The Parent Trap, in which long-separated twins (both played by Hayley Mills) join forces to try to reunite their divorced parents (the 1998 remake starred Lindsay Lohan). The roles men and women play in relationships are more than a little dated, despite the fact that the film was ahead of its time in addressing what was then the touchy subject of divorce. Some kids may be alarmed at the idea of the twins being split up, and divorced parents may need to remind kids that most couples don't get back together. An angry woman slaps a tween girl in the face, and there are comedic pratfalls and some slapstick-style violence (the twins are mischievous, but their intentions are good). Adult characters are shown smoking cigarettes and drinking cocktails and wine. Bottom line? The Parent Trap has stood the test of time and remains a charming movie that's entertaining for the entire family.
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What's the story?
In THE PARENT TRAP, Sharon and Susan (both Hayley Mills) are as different as night and day, and they become instant enemies when they meet at summer camp. Proper Sharon grew up in Boston with mother Maggie, and tomboy Susan lives out west on a ranch with father Mitch. When they unexpectedly discover they're identical twins, Sharon and Susan switch places to try to reunite their parents so they can stay together. Susan goes to Boston, where she gets to know her lonely mother Maggie. Sharon goes to the ranch, where she discovers that Mitch is about to get married to Vicky, a much younger woman who's most interested in the millions he has in the bank. In desperation, Sharon summons Susan and Maggie to the ranch, and the girls hatch a plan to get their parents back together.
Is it any good?
Quaintly old-fashioned by today's standards, this classic still charms, thanks to heartfelt performances of stars Hayley Mills, Brian Keith, and Maureen O'Hara. The story line here is virtually the same as in the 1998 remake, with the main difference being Mitch and Maggie's rather dated notions about the war between the sexes. Hayley Mills believably plays both Susan and Sharon and shines in the movie's memorable musical number, "Let's Get Together," which the remake omits.
For kids who are willing to watch a movie that unfolds at a more leisurely pace, The Parent Trap is an entertaining relic from a time when kids were far less knowing. As an added bonus, parents will enjoy the interplay between the movie's adults, which is deeper and more dramatic than in the remake.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the message of The Parent Trap. Do comedies often have messages? Do you think the movie remains relevant today, when kids are more knowing and parents divorce openly rather than hiding it, as these parents did?
How are issues such as divorce, sex, and puberty addressed in this movie, and how might that compare to a contemporary movie in which tween characters are prominently featured?
What are some of the more timeless aspects to this movie released over half a century ago?
- In theaters: June 21, 1961
- On DVD or streaming: May 7, 2002
- Cast: Brian Keith, Hayley Mills, Maureen O'Hara
- Director: David Swift
- Studio: Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment
- Genre: Comedy
- Topics: Book Characters
- Character strengths: Communication, Teamwork
- Run time: 124 minutes
- MPAA rating: G
- Last updated: September 21, 2019
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