The mother, meanwhile, discovers that everything about high school life proves more troublesome and complex than she expected — especially when she must accompany her daughter’s rock band for the all-important audition. The message comes across so intently and entertainingly that even young kids will pick it up: rock 'n' roll is vastly more difficult to fake — and vastly more important – than the practice of psychology. Like “The Lizzie McGuire Movie” from earlier this year (another Disney release aimed primarily at young girls), “Freaky Friday” treats pop music performance as the highest goal to which any teen can aspire and the magical solution to all life’s problems. Unfortunately, most kids need no further encouragement with their dreams of rock stardom.

The movie also takes a needlessly positive view of such adolescent fads as navel piercing; many parents will disagree with the story’s implicit endorsement of this insanity as a harmless quirk. There’s also a tasteless, feeble attempt to wring humor out of the grandfather’s hearing loss and advancing senility; Harold Gould’s over eager performance as the confused codger doesn’t help. Ten-year-old Ryan Malgarini fares much better as the inevitably mischievous and obnoxious younger brother of the main character. Every teenaged heroine in movies comes fully equipped with such a tiny teaser and tormentor, as do many big sisters in real life.

Despite its drawbacks, the story unfolds with cheerful, warm-hearted style, and delivers a few moments of surprising mother-daughter emotion at its climax. Director Mark Waters (who previously created a wretched and incompetent supermodel comedy called “Head Over Heels”) here provides an appropriately light and sunny touch, and handles his capable cast with easygoing sympathy. The humor delivers chuckles rather than belly laughs, and the film’s resolutely pro-teen/anti-adult point of view undermines its richer satisfactions, but “Freaky Friday” provides an evening of above average entertainment that parents can enjoy alongside their kids. Rated PG for some rude language, but no disturbing sex or violence references.  TWO AND A HALF STARS.


Michael Medved hosts a nationally syndicated daily radio show focusing on the intersection of politics and pop culture.  He's the author of eight non-fiction books, was co-host for 12 years on "Sneak Previews" on PBS, and is the former Chief Film Critic for the New York Post.