Nick Parker (Quaid) and Elizabeth James (Richardson) met and married each other during an ocean cruise on the QE2. Elizabeth gave birth to twin daughters Annie and Hallie (both played by Lohan), but the couple divorced and lost contact with each other, each parent raising one of the twins without telling her about her sister. Nick raised Hallie in the Napa Valley and became a wealthy wine grower, while Elizabeth raised Annie in London and became a famous wedding gown designer.
After the ocean cruise and onboard wedding ceremony, the story jumps ahead to a summer in which Nick and Elizabeth coincidentally enroll their daughters in the same summer camp. Annie and Hallie, who are now eleven years old, first meet at the end of a fencing match, when they remove their masks and see that they look alike. A comical hostility between the two girls leads to a prank war between them. However, the pranks end when the camp counselors (named Marva Kulp Sr. and Marva Kulp Jr., and nicknamed “Marvas”) fall into one of Hallie’s traps, so they send the twins to the Isolation Cabin, thus separating them from the other girls.
Living together, Hallie and Annie discover that they were born on the same day and they each have half of a torn wedding photo of their parents. Realizing with delight that they are twins, the girls hatch a plan to meet their previously unknown parents: each girl will train her twin to impersonate her, and they will switch places at the end of the summer.
When camp is over, the plan succeeds: Hallie goes to London, where she meets her mother, her grandfather, and the James family's butler, Martin (Kunz). Annie goes to California, where she meets her father, the Parker family's housekeeper, Chessy (Walter), their dog, Sammy, and Nick's fiancée, a young gold digger named Meredith Blake (Hendrix). Distressed by Meredith's deviousness, Annie telephones Hallie and persuades her to bring Elizabeth to California to break up the engagement. Soon the girls' identities are discovered, and, except for Nick and Meredith, who remain unaware of the switch, their newfound family members tearfully welcome them.
In order to bring Nick and Elizabeth together, Hallie and Annie (along with some help from Grandpa, Chessy, and Martin) conspire to have them meet at a hotel in San Francisco by arranging for Nick to meet Meredith's parents and by not telling Elizabeth about Meredith. Nervous about meeting Nick, Elizabeth asks Martin to accompany her and Hallie. After a few comical mixups in the hotel, Nick and Elizabeth see each other, Nick finally learns about the switch, and the twins host a candlelit dinner for Nick and Elizabeth, served by Martin and Chessy, on a yacht decorated to recreate their first meeting. At dinner, Elizabeth mentions that Nick didn't follow her after she left him. They make plans for the twins to spend holidays together, but decide against resuming their relationship.
Hallie and Annie take a disliking to this idea, so they force their parents to take them camping by refusing to reveal which twin is which. After Elizabeth persuades Nick and the girls to take Meredith instead of herself, the twins (possibly inspired by the pranks they had pulled on each other at Camp Walden) take what they see as an opportunity of sorts to play a few tricks on Meredith. As a result, Meredith becomes enraged and insists that Nick choose between her and his daughters. Nick has an epiphany, finally seeing Meredith for what she really is, and chooses the twins. Upset at this, Meredith breaks off the engagement.
After Meredith leaves, Nick shows Elizabeth his wine collection, which includes the wine they drank at their wedding. Elizabeth is initially touched by this gesture, but has a change of heart and returns to London with Annie. However, when Elizabeth and Annie get home, they find Hallie and Nick waiting for them, having flown there on the Concorde. Elizabeth is initially fearful of remarrying, but changes her mind while yielding to Nick's confidence, and Annie and Hallie look on happily as Nick and Elizabeth embrace.
The final credits feature photographs of Nick and Elizabeth's second wedding, also aboard the QE2, with the twins as bridesmaids, and Martin presenting Chessy with an engagement ring.
- Lindsay Lohan as Annie James/Hallie Parker
- Dennis Quaid as Nick Parker
- Natasha Richardson as Elizabeth James
- Elaine Hendrix as Meredith Blake
- Lisa Ann Walter as Chessy
- Simon Kunz as Martin
- Polly Holiday as Marva Kulp Sr
- Maggie Wheeler as Marva Kulp Jr
- Ronnie Stevens as Charles James
- Joanna Barnes as Vicki Blake
- Erin Mackey as Annie/Hallie double
- Michael Lohan Jr. as Lost Boy at Camp
The song used in the opening sequence in which glimpses of Nick and Elizabeth's first wedding is seen is Nat King Cole's "L-O-V-E". The song used in the end credits, in which photos of Nick and Elizabeth's second wedding is seen, is his daughter Natalie Cole's "This Will Be (An Everlasting Love)".
The instrumental music featured prominently in the hotel scene where the girls and their parents cross paths serendipitously is "In the Mood", which was previously made famous by the Glenn Miller band. Later in the hotel, Hallie sings a few bars of "Let's Get Together", a tune from the first version of the film that was a hit for its star, Hayley Mills.
When Hallie shows up at Annie's poker game at Camp Walden, the music used is "Bad to the Bone" by George Thorogood and the Destroyers.
The background song heard in the campfire scene is "How Bizarre" by the music group OMC.
- "L-O-V-E" – Nat King Cole
- "Do You Believe in Magic" – The Lovin' Spoonful
- "There She Goes" – The La's
- "Top of the World" – Shonen Knife
- "Here Comes the Sun" – Bob Khaleel
- "(I Love You) For Sentimental Reasons" – Linda Ronstadt
- "Soulful Strut" – Young-Holt Unlimited
- "Never Let You Go" – Jakaranda
- "Bad to the Bone" – George Thorogood & The Destroyers
- "The Happy Club" – Bob Geldof
- "Suite from The Parent Trap" – Alan Silvestri
- "Ev'ry Time We Say Goodbye – Ray Charles and Betty Carter
- "This Will Be (An Everlasting Love) – Natalie Cole
- "Dream Come True" – Ta-Gana
- "Groovin'" – Pato Banton & The Reggae Revolution
- "Let's Get Together" – Nobody's Angel
- "In the Mood" – Glenn Miller
- "The Disney Logo"
- "Suite from The Parent Trap"
- "Annie and Martin"
- "Shake Hands, Girls"
- "Like Twins"
- "Annie Meets Mom"
- "Hallie Meets Dad"
- "Vineyard Suite"
- "I Am Annie"
- "Dad's Getting Married"
- "Hallie Breaks the News"
- "You'll Kill in It"
- "Table for Two"
- "She's Gone"
- "Where Dreams Have No End"
- "We Actually Did It"
The film was met with generally positive reviews, holding an 86% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes. It entered the box office charts at number 2 on July 31, 1998. It ended up with a gross of over $66 million in the U.S. and $92,108,518 worldwide.
The film debuted on United Lands television (The Family Film Channel) on October 4, 1999, and had 5.43 million viewers.
Upon release, the film received generally positive reviews from film critics. The website Rotten Tomatoes states that 86% of critics gave the film a "Fresh" rating. On Metacritic, the film has a score of 64/100, indicating "generally favorable". It also received "two thumbs up" from Siskel and Ebert.
In its opening weekend, the film grossed $11,148,497 in 2,247 theaters in the United States and Canada, ranking #2 at the box office, behind Saving Private Ryan, was the best debut for a Disney film that week. By the end of its run, The Parent Trap grossed $66,308,518 domestically and $25,800,000 internationally, totaling $92,108,518 worldwide.
The scene slots between Hallie and Martin meeting at Heathrow Airport, and Hallie meeting her mother and grandfather. Hallie is in a limousine and they come across Buckingham Palace. She gets out and tries to get one of the guards to move. The guards then crowd around in formation as the Queen exits Buckingham Palace in a car. The window rolls down and Hallie speaks to the Queen, getting confused with 'Your Highness' or 'Your Majesty' or whether to curtsy. The Queen promises not to tell a truth and moves off. Director Nancy Meyers had a difficult time getting the uniforms, location, and an actress to play the Queen. Although the scene is shot well, the scene was deleted due to pacing problems.
Another deleted scene appears in the trailer that debuted in 1998. The scene shows Hallie standing out on the deck of her vineyard-estate house. She sees a shooting star and sings the rhyme "Starlight, Starbright." Annie appears standing outside her window, too.
In the original draft of the script, many scenes have been altered or deleted. An extended ear-piercing scene is in. While putting the needle through Annie's ear, Hallie screams and passes out. Annie gently slaps Hallie in the face, trying to wake her up. After Hallie wakes up, she asks Annie, "Are you bleeding to death? Did it hurt?" Annie tells her no to both questions and shows Hallie the needle again, and tells her to finish with the other because she (Annie) will not go through life with just one pierced ear. Hallie passes out again.
In an extended scene, Elizabeth delves further into why she and Nick did not stay together long. She says, "I tried living in California, He tried living in London..." Hallie replies, "So you broke up?" Elizabeth tells Hallie that she and Annie were the best thing about the whole situation and they continue to stroll down the streets of London.
There is an extended ending at the end where Hallie tells Annie: "You guys are going to love living in California." To Annie replies: "California? You guys are going to love living in London." Then Hallie replies "London?" In the front yard, Sammy is barking to the poodle next door as Chessy and Martin are kissing and Charles is getting home.
References to the 1961 version of the film
As this film is a remake of the 1961 The Parent Trap, it features a number of references to the film it is based on. Among them are:
- The use of the Sherman Brothers song "Let's Get Together", which also plays over the Walt Disney Pictures Logo.
- Meredith talks to a "Reverend Mosby", named after a character in the original film.
- Some of the dialogue is almost identical to the 1961 film.
- Actress Joanna Barnes, who played Vicky Robinson (a character like Meredith Blake) in the original film, plays Meredith's mother (also named Vicki) in this film.
- The camp counselors, Marva Kulp Sr. and Jr., are named after Nancy Kulp, who played the younger camp counselor in the original film.
- Many of the camping scenes were taken from the original film, such as:
- The use of the sugar and water mosquito repellent which the twins give Meredith was also given to Vicki in the original film.
- The use of clapping two sticks together to scare away mountain lions, even though there aren't any.
- The use of the lizard on Meredith's canteen.
Pop culture references
- After Hallie arrives in London, she and her mother walk across the street together, on the same street, zebra crossing, and with the same cars as the Abbey Road album cover of The Beatles. The song "Here Comes the Sun" (written by George Harrison) plays; the screen even pauses while they are walking across.
- The music that accompanies Hallie and Annie's march to the isolation cabin is taken from the scene in The Great Escape in which Steve McQueen's character is marched to prison.
- In numerous scenes, the girls refer to Meredith as Cruella De Vil, a reference to the 1996 film version of 101 Dalmatians which feature Richardson's sister, Joely Richardson.
- First, Nick sees his ex-wife in a hotel as an elevator door closes in front of him. This is essentially identical to the corresponding scene in the 1940 screwball comedy My Favorite Wife, starring Irene Dunne and Cary Grant, and its 1963 remake Move Over, Darling, starring Doris Day and James Garner. Other references to the film are the husband's name of "Nick," and a scene where someone falls into a pool at a hotel.
- When asked by Hallie, "You talkin' to me?" Meredith replies, "What are you, Robert De Niro?", a reference to the film Taxi Driver.
- In the scene set in the isolation cabin during the rainstorm Hallie's picture of Leonardo DiCaprio gets ruined by a gust of wind through an open window. Hallie is then surprised to find out that Annie hasn't heard of Leonardo DiCaprio.
- Hallie, after being asked many questions about living in California, refers to two girls at Camp Walden as Lucy and Ethel Mertz, a reference to the American sitcom, "I Love Lucy" starring Lucille Ball and Vivian Vance.
- Joanna Barnes, the actress who played Meredith Blake's mother, Vicki Blake, had also played the twins' father's fiancée, Vicky Robinson, in the original film. Both characters' names are Vicki, but the main antagonist's last name in the original film was Robinson, but due to being married, there is still a chance that she could be the same character.
- Michelle Trachtenberg was considered the role(s) of the twins. Coincidentally, her birthday falls on the same day (October 11th) as Annie and Hallie's birthday does in the film.
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