Maggie Wheeler

The Parent Trap (1998, Nancy Meyers)

Where to start with The Parent Trap. There’s the structure–Nancy Meyers and Charles Shyer split their script into three distinct parts. Well, maybe even three and a half. There’s the opening where Lindsay Lohan goes to summer camp and meets her twin. Then there’s the part where the twins meet the opposite parents–I’m not explaining The Parent Trap, you should know these things–and then there’s the third part, where everyone gets together.

Only, towards the end, the movie all of a sudden becomes a romance between Dennis Quaid and Natasha Richardson (as the parents). Meyers deftly shifts from the kids–sorry, Lohan–being the protagonist–protagonists–to turning Quaid into the lead. Richardson has a lot more to do on her own for a bit, which seems to be part of how Meyers pulls it off. She introduces the idea of a floating protagonist label so it’s easier to assign it to Quaid.

But there’s also the technical marvel part of the film. The effects with Lohan are outstanding. The Parent Trap is a special effects extravaganza; Dean Cundey lights it all perfectly, Meyers directs it perfectly.

Of course, the film only works because of Lohan and her ability to create two entirely different characters who not only look alike, but also sound alike for much of the film. Meyers’s direction of Lohan is phenomenal.

The excellent supporting performances from Lisa Ann Walter, Simon Kunz and Elaine Hendrix are essential.

The Parent Trap is a fantastic film.



Directed by Nancy Meyers; screenplay by David Swift, Meyers and Charles Shyer, based on a novel by Erich Kästner; director of photography, Dean Cundey; edited by Stephen A. Rotter; music by Alan Silvestri; production designer, Dean Tavoularis; produced by Shyer; released by Walt Disney Pictures.

Starring Lindsay Lohan (Hallie Parker / Annie James), Dennis Quaid (Nick Parker), Natasha Richardson (Elizabeth James), Elaine Hendrix (Meredith Blake), Lisa Ann Walter (Chessy), Simon Kunz (Martin), Polly Holliday (Marva Kulp Sr.), Maggie Wheeler (Marva Kulp Jr.), Ronnie Stevens (Grandfather James) and Joanna Barnes (Vicki Blake).

Mortal Sins (1990, Yuri Sivo)

Mortal Sins is a couple things one would think were mutually exclusive. On one hand, it’s a standard direct-to-video thriller, even if it shot on location in New York (featuring a bevy of actors who went on to “Law and Order” guest spots). On the other, it’s a serious attempt at an examination of the main character, an unmarried Jewish man unable to commit to his girlfriend, who only has Italian friends. And it’s a comedy (the murder mystery is set around competing televangelists, which I’m almost positive was also the setting for one of the Perry Mason TV movies). Frighteningly, the movie almost pulls it off.

There are two rather significant problems. First, Brian Benben is terrible. Benben’s usually likable or, at least, he’s supposed to be likable, but in Mortal Sins, he’s a complete jerk. Why he’s a jerk is the second significant problem–the script is not funny. The scenes with Benben teasing and mistreating his girlfriend (who sometimes spends the nights at his parents’ house with him) are terrible. Maggie Wheeler plays the girlfriend and she gets through the bad script, which is bad in a peculiar way. It’s not funny and it’s trying to be funny, but it still somehow works in the scenes with Benben and his friends. There’s also the scenes where Benben hassles his mother. Spending a movie hoping his father takes a baseball bat to his head before the end doesn’t make for a rewarding viewing experience.

But there are some good performances in it besides Wheeler. Peter Onorati is good and so’s Anthony LaPaglia. Most of LaPaglia’s scenes are the ones where Mortal Sins appears the most like a good, low budget comedy. There aren’t enough of them. The New York locations set the film a little apart. It’s a veritable tour video of the city (I’m sixty percent sure I know the big rock they shot at in Central Park) and it lends the film an agreeable tone, even if it’s dishonest. Well, it might not be dishonest. Watching the movie, I kept thinking it was a financed by a ten years of laundry profits. There’s something–behind the camera–very amateurish about the production ad and I’ll bet it’s a more interesting story than the film itself.

For such a peculiar film, the direction’s actually quite acceptable. Sivo knows how to shoot the scenes with the friends and family–better even-and he knows how to make the rest of it look like a direct-to-video thriller.

It’s the second time I’ve seen the film and I only kept it around because I remembered it being lame, but in an intriguing way. That diagnosis has not changed.



Directed by Yuri Sivo; written and produced by Allen Blumberg; director of photography, Bobby Bukowski; edited by Dorian Harris; music by Simon Boswell; production designer, Ray Recht; released by Panorama Entertainment Group.

Starring Brian Benben (Nathan), Debrah Farentino (Laura Rollins), Anthony LaPaglia (Vito), James Harper (Malcolm Rollins), Brick Hartney (Billy Beau Backus), Maggie Wheeler (Marie), Peter Onorati (Diduch), Anna Berger (Mother Weinschank), Frank S. Palmer (Paul Martin) and Steven Marcus (Cousin Benjamin).

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