At the rustic summer camp where Hallie Parker and Annie James (both played by Lindsay Lohan) discover they’re twins, preteens carry cell phones. The money-hungry sophisticated lady (Elaine Hendrix) who stands in the way of the girls’ innovative scheme to reunite their long-divorced parents is a publicist – an occupation that, along with journalist, is the trendiest shortcut these days to creating a derisible character. Hallie lives with their rich dad (Dennis Quaid) in a fairy tale-scenic winery in Napa, Calif. Annie lives with their rich mom (Natasha Richardson), a Vera Wang-like designer of wedding gowns, in fairy tale-posh London.
These modernizing touches aside, ”The Parent Trap” (Walt Disney) remains substantially true to writer-director David Swift’s original, enduringly enchanting 1961 Disney production starring Hayley Mills in the dual roles that extended her Pollyanna fame (and made her an early feminist role model for girls). And in not messing with a sure thing when they’ve won the right to remake it, director Nancy Meyers and producer/husband Charles Shyer deserve the gratitude of generations of Hayley-holics, all of us capable of bursting into a chorus of ”Let’s Get Together” at the slightest provocation. Meyers and Shyer – specialists in bedtime stories for divorce-prone boomers (”Irreconcilable Differences,” ”Father of the Bride”) – also demonstrate their savvy about what the market will bear: While not as potent as the yeah-yeah-yeah original (which came out when unscandalous, everyday divorce was still a movie novelty), it’s no small feat that this kindhearted remake is as graceful as it is, an homage as well as an update for an era of even more split families, and more fervent children’s wishes for the magical ability to make things whole.
Quaid and Richardson contribute midrange movie-star appeal. Hendrix wins a good-sportsmanship award for playing the humiliated, aggressive single woman. But responsibility for making this Trap tender rests heaviest on the bird-size shoulders of auburn-haired, freckle-faced Lohan, now 11, who won the unenviable job of making us forget about Hayley Mills – at least temporarily. The natural, pleasurable 1990s hipness this newcomer brings to her assignment is therefore all the more impressive. Hayley-holics should be grateful to this new girl at camp too.