Recently it has come to my attention that the internet at large is gravely mistaken about one very important thing: that the Nancy Meyers film The Parent Trap is the best and only version of this story. I’m very sorry to tell you that it is not. Why on earth does the internet insist on referring to Lindsay Lohan’s film debut as canon? Please, for the love of Hayley Mills, stop this at once.
The reasons for holding the 1998 remake so high do make sense. It’s a Nancy Meyers movie, replete with the sumptuous interiors and kitchens she’s known for. It also marks the film debut of Lindsay Lohan. The fashion in the film is very now, with its muted, ’90s pastels and casual, aspirational summertime athleisure. While those reasons are certainly valid, what no one is acknowledging in any of this is the existence of the original, which I learned upon a recent viewing is a delightful romp that is far superior to the remake.
If you’ve seen the Meyers remake, then you know the plot: Hayley Mills stars as both Sharon McKendrick and Susan Evers, two identical twin girls split up and raised by their parents separately. Sharon is a stuffy Boston Brahmin with an inexplicable English accent, raised by her mother Maggie, played by the effervescent Maureen O’Hara. Susan is a scrappy and exceptionally wealthy tomboy raised by her father, Mitch—a strong-jawed and strapping example of mid-century American masculinity, played by Brian Keith. There is an evil stepmother, but her name is Vicky instead of Meredith and she’s an icy blonde snake, in the vein of the Baroness from The Sound of Music.
Aside from casting choices, everything else is pretty much the same: the twins are switched, hijinks ensue, and in the end Mom and Dad are reunited, perpetuating the dangerous myth that divorced children can hoodwink their parents into loving each other again by tricking them into being in the same room and falling in love once more.
Of course, there are a few updates, but what I refuse to understand is why anyone would fuck with the remake when the original is so much better? It’s basically the same movie! Why watch two Lindsay Lohans clomp around a summer camp when you could watch two Hayleys doing the same shit, but way better? Tribute must be paid to the original greatness that offered Lohan the chance to shine as Annie and Hallie: Hayley Mills’s indefatigable sunniness as one of the hardest working child actors of her time. Mills is the product of a time in Hollywood when studios like Disney invested in actors as if they were stocks instead of human beings. During her heyday, Mills was one of the most successful child actors of her time. She was the last person to win the now-defunct Juvenile Oscar for her work in Pollyanna. The jaunty song “Let’s Get Together,” which Hayley Mills sings as a duet with herself in the middle of the original film, made it to Number 8 on the Billboard Hot 100. She also endured the quiet indignity of wearing one of the most unconscionable wigs I’ve ever seen in my life—a cross between a pageboy and a short Prince Valiant. It’s quite ugly, but you know what, she’s doing her best.
Has Lindsay Lohan ever charted? Show me Lindsay Lohan’s Oscar, juvenile or otherwise. The only thing these two women have in common aside from starring in this movie is that neither one of them is really acting anymore. Mills has had a career that befits the daughter of beloved British actor Sir John Mills—long, tasteful, kind of generic, very posh. Both actresses may have peaked in their roles in The Parent Trap, but for Mills, her inevitable descent wasn’t the deafening crash that Lohan’s was.
Also, while I do appreciate the splendor that is a Nancy Meyers interior, there aren’t nearly enough Pinterest boards or Apartment Therapy posts dedicated to replicating the look and feel of the absolutely bonkers California ranch house where Susan, the American twin, lives. Swap out the kind of dated furniture and do something about that floor—is it carpet?—and I would gladly move in posthaste.
This bathroom is actually a Jack and Jill situation between the master suite and the twins’ bedroom, which I guess is weird, but who cares, it’s enormous and full of insanely kitsch tilework. Have you seen this in the background of a fucking Into the Gloss Top Shelf? Squint and you can almost see a Diptyque candle flickering on the ledge of the tub. Looks nice, yeah? Smells good.
Do you see this shit? This is a giant courtyard in the middle of their house, with a goddamn wishing well. It has landscaping. It’s everything I’ve wanted in a home. And, according to various sources, it was all built on a soundstage. The exterior is part of the Golden Oaks Ranch that Disney bought to use for shooting movies like Old Yeller and these ridiculous interiors were constructed on a set. Disappointing to say the least, but inspirational nonetheless. What —if anything—about the 1991 remake of this seminal childhood classic has moved you as much as this fake-ass ranch house moved me? Nothing.
Erasing Hayley Mills’s very important work AND the high kitsch of this ridiculous film is rude! She acted in scenes with herself so that others could follow in her footsteps. Give respect where respect is due. Hayley Mills, Juvenile Academy Award winner, made the best version of The Parent Trap. I dare you to tell me otherwise.