Film / The Parent Trap

"Let's get together, yeah yeah yeah!"

The Parent Trap is a Disney live-action film that has been filmed twice. The 1961 original starred Hayley Mills and yielded three sequels which are hard to fit into one continuity (and are pretty much forgotten about). The 1998 remake starred Dennis Quaid, Natasha Richardson, and a young Lindsay Lohan,

Twin sisters have been separated nearly at birth when their parents divorced. The year their father is considering remarrying, the sisters meet each other at summer camp. On meeting, they plot to get their parents back together, a plot that involves each pretending to be the other. Hilarity Ensues.

The movie is based on a 1949 book, Das doppelte Lottchen, which has also been filmed as Das doppelte Lottchen (a faithful-to-the-text version that retains author Erich Kästner as narrator and uses actual twins), Twice Upon a Time and Hibari’s Lullaby (a Japanese telling).

The Parent Trap provides examples of:

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     Both Movies 
  • Adaptational Villainy: In the original book, the father's fiancée is clearly an unsympathetic antagonist, but hardly a villain — she seemed to genuinely like the girls' father (even if attracted to his fame as well), wanted to have her own children with him and only planned to get rid of his daughter (by sending her to boarding school) after the latter came to her house to openly object to their marriage. The fiancée didn't actually get to do anything villainous. However, in both movies she's portrayed as Child Hater and Gold Digger (in the original, she's in fact much richer than her would-be husband) who Would Hurt a Child.
  • Always Identical Twins: The girls being identical twins is what allows them to pull the switch off.
  • Coordinated Clothes: The twins wear matching outfits several times, sometimes to confuse the others about which twin is which. When the mother sees both her daughters for the first time since their separation, each is dressed in yellow and white. She tells them not to do this to her because she's already seeing double (even after a Hideous Hangover Cure she hasn't quite sobered up yet) and asks who is who.
  • Disneyfication: The original story (and original German adaptation) was far more serious than the Disney movies — the father was distant, the mother was a wreck, and one twin falls ill.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: Hallie/Susan manages to very much overreact and initiate all the fights in both films.
  • Divorce Is Temporary: The twins actively invoke this. A line in the remake notes that neither parent has ever come close to remarrying.
  • Don't Split Us Up: The twins' plan is to get their parents back together so they can be together as well.
  • Escalating War: In both versions the twins start off hostile to each other, and a prank war ensues. This results in them getting put in the Isolation Cabin and forced to spend time together.
  • Evil-Detecting Dog: Sharon isn't exactly evil, but Susan's dog still figured out that she's an impostor much earlier than the father and the maid do. The same happens in the remake.
  • Fiery Redhead: The first movie has the Mother and Sharon's camp friend Ursula. The second movie has both Annie and Hallie, especially at camp.
  • First Father Wins: Gender Flipped. Both Maureen O'Hara and Natasha Richardson get back the guy, while the Gold Digger runs off in defeat.
  • "Good Luck" Gesture: Both versions of have a special gesture. They cross fingers (for luck) on both hands, with arms crossed (symbolizing the girls' Twin Switch). It was used much more in the original Hayley Mills film.
  • Guess Who I'm Marrying?: In both films, the twins discover their father about to marry a new woman who's evil.
  • Hard-Work Montage: The twins use this to give each other information and mannerisms they'll need to remember when visiting the other parent.
  • His and Hers: Discussed trope. Once they discover each other, neither twin is happy that in the original divorce, the twins were treated as "his and hers", as if they were a set of matched towels.
    Hallie: His & Hers kids. No offence, mom, but this arrangement totally sucks."
  • Horrible Judge of Character: The father in both versions toward his gold digger fiancée. She is extremely rude — to not only the girls, but also his housekeeper.
  • Identical Twin ID Tag: The twins start off easily identifiable by their hairstyles, clothing and accents. Throughout the course of camp, they alter their appearances so that they are identical. In the remake, the only way to tell them apart in the third act is by the accents, and they're able to fake those convincingly enough that not even the girls' father can be completely sure he knows which is which.
  • Important Haircut: Susan gives one to Sharon in the 1961 version and Hallie does the same to Annie in the 1998 version.
  • Infodump: For everyone who is involved in the main plot.
  • It's a Small World After All: Twin sisters, separated and living in different states (continents in the remake) end up at the same camp one summer. This gets lampshaded more than once.
  • Karma Houdini: The parents in both versions, who pay for willingly denying their children the chance to know about one another and having multiple family members and friends lie to them for years by being reunited as a couple and a family.
  • No Sympathy: In the 1961 version, Susan and her bunkmates slip into Sharon's cabin and trash the place while Sharon and her bunkmates are asleep. Even though the damage is clearly the work of saboteurs, Sharon and her bunkmates are punished for having a messy cabin. The 1998 version makes more sense, with the cabin sabotage being the climax of the prank war that gets them both in trouble, and Annie being responsible for inviting Marva inside to get caught in Hallie's trap rather than warning her from the window.
  • Now You Tell Me: A lot of characters find things out the hard way.
  • Off to Boarding School: What would have happened if the fiancée married the father.
  • One True Pairing: established in-universe, between Maggie McKendrick and Mitch Evers in the original, and Elizabeth James and Nick Parker in the remake-the daughters' reason for the trap.
  • "Parent Trap" Plot: The Trope Namer. The sisters however initially just want to get to know their respective other parent. Then they decide to try getting them back together.
  • Parent with New Paramour: In both versions the father has just started dating a new girlfriend - who is a Gold Digger.
  • Remake Cameo: Joanna Barnes played Vicki Robinson (the fiancée) in the Hayley Mills version and Vicki Blake (the fiancée's mother) in the Lindsay Lohan version.
  • Rich Bitch: The fiancée in both versions. She serves the role as Gold Digger and Child Hater.
  • Rich in Dollars, Poor in Sense: In both versions, the father falls in love with another woman and fails to notice that the target of his affections is a Gold Digger who doesn't care about him or his daughters.
  • Rule of Pool: In both versions, a pool serves as an aid to dramatic emphasis. In each, the father falls into a nearby pool when he sees his ex-wife from afar.
  • Separated at Birth: The twins were separated at some point when they were both babies.
  • Setting Update: Both films move the setting to contemporary America.
  • Sibling Team: Once the girls discover they're sisters.
  • Solomon Divorce: One of the best-known examples.
  • The Talk: The first movie has Maggie cancel a very important meeting with the Red Cross because she's afraid her daughter might want to have sex, and takes her for a picnic to have that woman-to-woman talk. Meredith gives one to Annie (as Hallie), albeit about using sex appeal.
  • Tomboy and Girly Girl: Sharon is a girly girl, having been raised as a child of Boston high society; Susan is the tomboy. In the remake, there's the determined American, Hallie Parker, and the proper Brit, Annie James.
  • Tomboy with a Girly Streak: Susan, the tomboy sister in the remake, remarks she feels just "naked" without her lipstick, and doesn't usually dress any more boyish than Sharon; in the original, Hallie has pierced ears and nail polish; both are adept in homemade haircuts.
  • Twin Switch: The girls swap places to get to know their parents. Later they do the same just to fool them.
  • What Does She See in Him?: Wondered by both maids about the Gold Digger dating the Father, not that the Father is ugly, but he's usually a Regular Joe and isn't very witty or "one of those charm fellows", think Leonard Hofstadder if he was a wealthy rancher.
  • Zany Scheme

     The Original Version 
  • Ooh, Me Accent's Slipping: Hayley Mills plays two Americans from vastly different regions of the United States. From character to character and scene to scene, her accent veers from flat-voweled generic American to vaguely British and back again.
  • Panty Shot: From one of the pranks during the dance, when Sharon surreptitiously cuts the back off the skirt of Susan's party dress.
  • The Remake: The third adaptation of the same book, Erich Kästner's Das doppelte Lottchen, and thus can itself legitimately be described as a Foreign Remake.
  • Shout-Out: The title sequence references Stan Freberg's "John and Marsha" skit twice.
  • Take That!: A subtle one to Boston when Susan finds out that Sharon knows nothing about Teen Idol Ricky Nelson and asks if she's from outer space, Sharon replies where she's from and then Sharon snootily replies as though that explains everything; likely more to the Boston elite being very out-of-touch with social changes and fashion.
  • Vinyl Shatters: When the girls upset the table with the records while fighting.

     The 1998 Remake 

  • Abbey Road Crossing: A second-long freeze frame as "Here Comes The Sun" plays in the background.
  • Adaptation Expansion: The original movie ended with Mitch and Maggie falling back in love.
  • Adaptation-Induced Plot Hole: Making one of the twins British throws a huge wrench into the main plot. American summer holidays usually last about three months. British students on the other hand don't get theirs until July and only for six weeks. So unless Annie is home-schooled with a very lenient tutor, it's unlikely she'd even be able to go to Camp Walden in the first place (it's mentioned that the girls were at camp for eight weeks). In the original both twins were Americans, so it was no big deal.
  • Adaptational Nationality: The original film had both twins as Americans (though ironically played by a British girl), while the remake makes one twin British. By extension, the mother becomes British and so does her father.
  • Adults Are Useless: The Marvas are strangely absent for a lot of scenes where their discipline would be required — especially with the stunt where Hallie and friends had their beds put on the cabin roof. There's also a rather suspicious lack of other counsellors around.
  • Author Appeal: As in many Nancy Meyers movies, the setting is California. Notable because in the original, the story alternated between Boston and California — and Boston is replaced with London in the remake. It also deals with middle-aged people falling in love, as a lot of her films do.
  • Author Avatar: Annie and Hallie were named after director Nancy Meyers and producer Chuck Shyer's daughters
  • Big Eater: Hallie, but not Annie. This, (along with Sammy the dog barking and growling at "Hallie") makes Chessy realize the truth
  • Bilingual Bonus: Annie takes news of her father remarrying so harshly, she rants in French.
  • Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: The soon-to-be-Step-Mom for Hallie.
  • Blonde, Brunette, Redhead: Elizabeth and Meredith act as the blondes, depending on the scene. Chessy is the brunette, while the twins are the redheads.
  • Book Ends: As part of Alan Silvestri's score, short, dramatic instrumentals of "Let's get together, yeah, yeah, yeah," accompany both the opening Walt Disney Pictures logo and the last few seconds of the end credits.
  • Britain Is Only London: Justified since Elizabeth is a successful fashion designer and would naturally be based in London.
  • British Stuffiness: One of the twins is American and the other is British. Guess which is the proper one and which is the spunky one. But Annie is an outdoorsy girl too who has no problem camping - in stark contrast to Meredith.
  • Camp Straight: If Martin doesn't qualify, we don't know who does. (see Little Black Dress below)
  • Chekhov's Skill: During the poker game, Hallie mimics Annie's voice. This also acts as Foreshadowing that she's got a good ear for imitating voices.
  • Country Mouse, City Mouse: Hallie is the Country Mouse coming from a vast vineyard in Northern California while Annie is the City Mouse coming from downtown London. Played with, though, in that Annie adjusts very well to camping in the forest. Meredith however is much more of a City Mouse, coming directly from San Francisco.
  • The Ditz: Both Marvas are quite bubble brained.
  • Establishing Character Moment: Meredith is established as a Bitch in Sheep's Clothing when Hallie overhears her lying to a reverend, preventing Nick from taking part in a charity event.
  • Evil-Detecting Dog: In addition to the example listed in the top folder, Hallie's dog barks at Meredith in the hotel.
  • Foot Focus: When (drunk!) Elizabeth arrives at the San Francisco hotel, she gives Martin her bare foot instead of her hand.
  • Foreign-Language Tirade: Annie rants in French when she discovers Nick and Meredith are engaged. As she's pretending to be Hallie at this point, she has to claim she learned it at camp.
  • Fourth Date Marriage: Elizabeth and Nick met while on an ocean cruise, and married while they were still on it. Judging by the end of the film, they don't spend too much time waiting the second time either.
  • Gilligan Cut:
    Elizabeth: (to Hallie) You're not to worry, okay?
    (to Martin) I'm sorry! I can't handle this!
  • Girly Girl with a Tomboy Streak: The blurb describes Annie as a "fair rose from London" and she is the more proper of the twins. But she's still an avid fencer and is happy to go hiking in the mountains on a camping trip.
  • Gone Swimming, Clothes Stolen: When Annie loses the poker game, she has to strip off and jump into the lake. Naturally Hallie steals her clothes afterwards.
  • Gray Rain of Depression: When it looks like the plan has failed and the two families part, it's pouring down rain in California when Elizabeth and Annie leave and in London when they arrive.
  • Grounded Forever: "We've been grounded till the end of the century." Which would have been much more threatening if the movie wasn't released in the Summer of 1998, but then again, "grounded till the end of the century" was most likely an exaggeration.
  • Hate at First Sight: Hallie and Annie hate each other from the moment they first see each other and see they look exactly alike.
  • Heavy Sleeper:
    • Annie and her bunkmates. The girls from Hallie's cabin booby trap Annie's cabin while Annie and her cabinmates were asleep. This included pouring honey on one girl, shaving cream on another, stringing the entire cabin, placing water balloons to fall on the girls, and placing feathers on the top of the ceiling fan so that they would float down when the fan was turned on, which was also booby trapped by pulling on a certain string. That had to take hours and involve ladders moving around the cabin.
    • Justified with Meredith on the camping trip. She stated she was going to take a sleeping pill.
  • Hideous Hangover Cure: Elizabeth panicked during the flight and drank everything in sight, so this was necessary.
  • I'm a Man; I Can't Help It: Nick Parker. Annie lampshades this.
  • Intimate Open Shirt: Meredith suggests Nick wear his shirt with three buttons undone.
    "I like it when I can see a little chest hair" *Cue* Sexophone.
  • Intoxication Ensues: Elizabeth may not drink much, but she's a total lightweight.
  • It Tastes Like Feet: The bartender's Hideous Hangover Cure tastes and looks like tar.
  • Kindly Housekeeper: Chessy, when she finds out, wants to coddle Annie and tries to cook everything in the kitchen for her
  • Lampshade Hanging: The last line of dialogue in the film is Hallie exclaiming, "I can't believe we actually did it!"
  • Light Feminine and Dark Feminine: Elizabeth is the softer and nurturing Light Feminine, while Meredith is the harsher and brashier Dark Feminine. Notably Elizabeth only wears dark colours once in the film (when she's at dinner with Nick) and likewise Meredith with white (when she first meets Annie).
  • Little Black Dress:
    • Martin, Elizabeth's butler and friend, suggests she take one on the trip to see Nick and switch the girls back. She's actually wearing it when they all go out to dinner.
    • Meredith is also wearing one when Nick meets her parents at the hotel, though she covers it with a coat later in the day.
  • Logo Joke: The Walt Disney Pictures logo is accompanied by an orchestral version of an excerpt from "Let's Get Together" from the original movie.
  • Madonna–Whore Complex: Done subtly. Elizabeth — the wholesome mother — is given a more earthy look, with soft make-up and modest clothes. Meredith — the vampy evil girlfriend — is done up in sexier clothes, with more fashionable hair and make-up. Further underlining things is the colours they wear in the first scene they appear in together — Elizabeth in white and Meredith in black.
  • The Magic Poker Equation: When Annie and Hallie play poker, Annie gets straight in diamonds while Hallie gets a royal flush.
  • Montages: The movie makes liberal use of them:
    • See Hard-Work Montage in the "Both Movies" folder.
    • Hallie's first day in London has at least two.
    • At the end of the movie, Elizabeth and Nick remarry, Martin proposes to Chessy, and Chessy says yes.
  • Mythology Gag:
    • A few sentences from "Let's Get Together" song (made famous in the Hayley Mills version) are hummed/spoken by Lindsay Lohan at one point.
    • Meredith's mother is not only named Vicki, but played by the same actress as her from the original movie, Joanna Barnes.
    • Mildred, Annie's pretend friend who is a cover for Hallie, is a possible reference to Hayley Mills.
    • Meredith talks on the phone to a Reverend Moseby, a character from the original film.
  • Nice to the Waiter:
    • Chessy and Martin are like family to their respective employers. Averted with Meredith who treats Chessy like a talking dog who would be summoned with a bell.
    • Chessy is even treated nicely by Elizabeth who was intoxicated at the time of their meeting again after years apart.
      Chessy: [upon seeing Elizabeth after so many years] Hi, you probably don't remember me. I...
      Elizabeth: [gives her a kiss on the cheek] Chessy!
      Chessy: I knew I always liked her.
  • Offscreen Teleportation: Hallie, an energetic 11-year-old, is shown running several minutes through the streets of London in a series of JumpCuts to reach a phone booth away from the house to make her phone call. Her elderly grandfather shows up outside the phone booth less than a minute behind her and he's not even breathing hard.
  • Old Man Marrying a Child: Used as an indirect accusation, delivered with Sugary Malice. When Nick tells his daughter that Meredith is about to become part of the family, she surely understands right away that he's talking about marriage. However, she pretends to innocently misunderstand him and get all ecstatic about how he's finally getting one more daughter by adopting her. Annie (pretending to be Hallie) immediately asks Meredith her age and points out that she's only fifteen years older. A similar line happens in the original version ("I always wanted a sister!") but doesn't have the same insinuation as that version of the fiancée clearly looked like an adult.
  • Ooh, Me Accent's Slipping: Happens to both Hallie and Annie, more often to whoever has a British accent at the moment. Often it's the In-Character version of the trope. Lindsay Lohan had to play four accents — American, British, American pretending to be British, and British pretending to be American. The latter two had accents slipping. Lohan does a remarkable job in the scene at the hotel where she's basically playing four characters at once — Hallie, Annie, Hallie pretending to be Annie and Annie pretending to be Hallie. She switches up the accents just enough to do exactly what Hallie and Annie were after (confuse the heck out of Mom and Dad).
  • Parent Service: Meredith's outfits are usually tight, flattering and showing plenty of leg.
  • Parental Substitute: Chessie acted like a second mother for Hallie and Martin acted like a father to Annie. Makes sense seeing as how they were certain that the girls would never meet their other parent.
  • Parents Know Their Children: Sort of—the father looks each twin in the eye and declares which one is Hallie; however, it's not made clear if he's right, since the twins keep playing up the charade and make him question his own judgement.
  • Pet Homosexual: Meredith's sassy gay assistant: "Ooh, Ice Woman!"
  • The Remake: Of the 1961 film (see above).
  • The Reveal: In-universe, several times: first Hallie and Annie to each other (twice), then Annie to Chessy, then Hallie to her grandfather, then Hallie to her mother. And then Elizabeth dealing with the additional reveal of Nick's engagement to Meredith.
  • Rhetorical Question Blunder: When Elizabeth is getting emotional about the thought of meeting Nick for the first time after so many years, she spouts off several of these to Martin—as well as insisting him not to answer any of them.
  • Riddle for the Ages: How did Annie get three sets of beds and dressers out of a cabin and onto the roof without any counselors noticing?
  • Sand In My Eyes: Elizabeth is pleased that Nick still remembers the wine from their first wedding.
  • Scatter Brained Senior: Marva Sr, though with a bit of lampshade hanging. She believes she's been talking to the same girl when she first meets both Annie and Hallie.
    "First day of camp, you'll have to excuse the old girl."
  • Scenery Porn: Hallie arriving in London is of course an excuse for plenty of shots of the various landmarks. To a lesser degree, Annie arriving in California.
  • Scream Discretion Shot: When Hallie pierces Annie's ears, and when the girls drag Meredith's mattress into a lake.
  • Servile Snarker: Nick's housekeeper, Chessy, and Elizabeth's butler, Martin. They also become attracted to each other at first sight and end up being the Beta Couple.
  • She Cleans Up Nicely: Nick has a reaction like this when Elizabeth gets dressed up for the dinner on the ship because he's only seen her half hungover, though of course the audience has seen her looking flawless before.
  • She's Got Legs: Discussed about both Elizabeth and Meredith:
    • Martin suggests a Little Black Dress for Elizabeth with her legs.
    • A very drunk ("totally zonked!") Elizabeth attempts to get out of the cab at the hotel feet first, showing serious leg.
    Martin: Other end, Madam.
    • After seeing Nick in the elevator, his arms wrapped around a young lady, Elizabeth refers to her as "leggy".
  • Shipper on Deck: Chessie and Martin are on board with the twins' plan and help them try to get the parents back together.
  • Shout-Out:
  • "Shut Up" Kiss: Nick to Elizabeth as they get back together at the end.
  • Sophisticated as Hell: Elizabeth might seem like a proper high class fashion designer, but when she finds out about the plan, intoxication ensues and you see just how loopy she really is.
  • Strange Minds Think Alike:
    • One of the first signs that something is funny about them is the fact that both of them like to eat Oreos topped with peanut butter, which everybody else seems to find disgusting for some odd reason; (try dipping Oreos in peanut butter yourself; they actually go quite nicely together. Yum!)
    • More so because both Oreos and peanut butter are far less commonly sold in Britain than they are in America. So the fact that the English-raised Annie likes that particular combination would be rather unusual...
  • Sword Fight: Hallie and Annie's first meeting is through an absurdly over-the-top "fencing match" at camp. The girls have fencing masks on as a way to save on special effects, to cover the faces of the stunt people, and for the big reveal that they both look alike when they take the masks off and face each other.
  • Take a Third Option: When Chessy welcomes Annie!Hallie home, Chessy asks her if she'd like to eat lunch after upacking, before unpacking, or-to Annie's surprise-while unpacking.
  • The Talk: Meredith tries to give it to Annie!Hallie, but she's more knowledgeable about it than she realises.
  • Tempting Fate: Annie waking up at the cabin disaster dodges several water balloons. "Gosh she didn't get me." and smiles with satisfaction. Then a HUGE water balloon falls on top of her soaking her.
  • Tomboy with a Girly Streak: Hallie is sporty, outdoorsy and sassy, but also really likes her funky nail polish and accessories.
  • True Blue Femininity: Annie, the more graceful and feminine of the twins, wears a blue dress for the dinner with the parents.
  • Villainous Breakdown: Meredith has one after being pranked by the twins and Nick dumps her.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: What happened to Meredith after Nick dumped her?
  • Wise Beyond Her Years: Annie is definitely more savvy than her eleven years would lead one to believe. She guesses right away that Meredith is a Gold Digger.
  • You Are Grounded: After the girls scare Meredith off.
  • You Talkin' to Me?: Parodied. When Hallie is addressed by Meredith (who she had never seen yet), she responds "You talkin' to me?" 0- and gets an answer: "What are you, Robert De Niro? Yes, I'm talking to you."
  • Youthful Freckles: Annie and Hallie have these, Lindsay Lohan's own.