Video reviews: Iron Man 2 and The Parent Trap

The Parent Trap (1961), if I saw it – and surely I MUST have seen it at some point – mustn’t I? – I watched SO long ago that the details are surely erased from my memory. It was a Disney film starring Hayley Mills… and Hayley Mills! I DO recall that ad campaign. The script was based on Das Doppelte Lottchen, a novel by Erich Kastner, that had been made into British and German films, using twin girls.

Two girls, one from tony Boston, the other from freewheeling California, meet at a summer camp and take an instant dislike to each other. Each just doesn’t like that other girl with her face. Antics ensue, including a social event with the boys from a neighboring camp, ruined by the duo.

Forced to spend time together in isolation, Sharon and Susan discover they have the exact same birthday… and the same mother! They figure out that their parents separated when they were infants, with Sharon staying with their mother, and Susan off with their dad. They decide to switch places, which involves Susan cutting Sharon’s hair, in order to get their parents back together.

Susan gets to spend time with her mother (Maureen O’Hara), grandmother (Cathleen Nesbitt) and grandfather (Charlie Ruggles), who is the first to uncover the scheme. Meanwhile, Sharon finally sees dad (Brian Keith) on his ranch. His housekeeper (Una Merkel) notices a “change” in the girl. But trouble is brewing: Dad is engaged to some gold digger named Vicki (Joanna Barnes).

Eventually, Susan and mom head west, and the plot goes from there.

The not-so-good:
It’s too long! At 129 minutes, we watched it in two sittings. I would have cut some parts of the 30 minute set-up.
A couple of the songs, by Richard and Robert Sherman, were period pieces, and not very impressive.
For both of these, I blame Uncle Walt. I discovered, from the extras disc, that the movie lacked a title song for a good while. One working title was Let’s Get Together; the Sherman Brothers wrote a song by that name, and then Walt insisted that director David Swift insert the song into the movie, not once, but twice. As sung by Annette Funicello, it’s on a record at the dance; as sung by Susan and Sharon, (unconvincingly) playing guitar and piano, it’s a serenade to mom and dad.
The ultimate title song, performed by Tommy Sands and Annette, isn’t great either.

The quite good:
The winning cast. In spite of the implausibility that parents would keep the sisters’ existence from each other, and the unlikely coincidence of the meeting, good chemistry between the siblings, and with their family.
Hayley playing opposite Hayley, much more difficult in the day than it would be now, was quite effective. The filmmakers, I discovered, looked for some physical background, such as a wall design so that if the matting weren’t perfect, it wouldn’t be as obvious.
From the extra disc: highly entertaining six minutes with Susan Henning, who played Hayley’s double, who only appeared on screen when one girl was at an angle to the other, or when you saw one girl’s back. She is uncredited in the film, but Walt Disney himself gave her a special trophy at the end of the shoot.
The other Sherman Brothers song, For Now for Always, sung by Maureen O’Hara, as mom recalls the first date with dad, is lovely. This too was a title song contender. Speaking of lovely, O’Hara is gorgeous in this film, more beautiful at 40 than the 26-year-old Barnes.

I think this review is largely accurate, especially with regards to the extras, although the disc I rented paired Parent Trap with its 1986 TV sequel.
***
Which brings me to:
The Parent Trap II (1986). A quarter century after Susan and Sharon’s successful maneuver, a now divorced Sharon (Hayley Mills) wants to move to NYC for her job. Her daughter Nicki fears losing her best friend Mary, unless Sharon marries Mary’s dad Bill (Tom Skerritt); then they would be sisters. They get aunt Susan (Hayley Mills), who is married, to pretend to be Sharon to get him interest in Sharon. Wha?

The motivation for Susan is so non-existent. It’s one thing to get her parents, who were once married, BACK together again. This matchmaking, though, is bizarre. The film had the feel of a clunky 1980s TV movie, because it is. There is one rather funny scene near the end, but both the Daughter and I were either bored or confused through much of this.
***
Iron Man 2 (2010) was OK. I LOVED the first film, but was concerned about the big reveal at the end that Tony Stark was Iron Man. In this iteration, Tony tangles with a self-important Senator (Gary Shandling) and a military weapons expert (Sam Rockwell). Can the secrets of the powerful Iron Man suits fall into the wrong hands? Apparently so, as Ivan (Mickey Rourke), son of Tony’s father’s colleague, poses a serious threat.

Meanwhile, Lt. Rhodes (now played by Don Cheadle) gets all conflicted about his obligations to the military and to his friend Tony. Tony just gives Stark Industries to his secretary, Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow)?! And what’s the story with Stark Industries legal consultant Natalie Rushman (Scarlett Johansson)? It all made sense at the end, but felt convoluted along the way.

Oh, and obviously, I was supposed to have seen this BEFORE the Thor movie. Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) continues to be involved in the mix. In any case, I think I’m now finally ready to see the Avengers movie.

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3 thoughts on “Video reviews: Iron Man 2 and The Parent Trap

  1. I think you’re really going to like Avengers, probably more than any of these Thor, Iron Man, Hulk, or Captain America movies.

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