By John Mulderig | Catholic News Service
NEW YORK (CNS) — The body-swapping genre is a well-established one in Hollywood.
Although numerous other titles could be cited, it’s perhaps most obviously typified by the various film adaptations of author Mary Rodgers’ 1972 children’s novel “Freaky Friday,” made both for the big screen and TV.
Theoretically, the idea of taking this premise and mashing it up with the cliches of the teen-victim slasher movie would seem to have some potential. In “Freaky” (Universal), however, the gruesome bloodletting that marks such franchises as “Friday the 13th” and “A Nightmare on Elm Street” is all-too-faithfully reproduced, squelching any potential enjoyment that might be had from this mix of horror and comedy.
In place of Rodgers’ mother-and-daughter duo, “Freaky” features a vicious serial killer known as The Butcher (Vince Vaughn) and misfit high school student Millie Kessler (Kathryn Newton). Just as Millie is about to become The Butcher’s latest prey, the mysterious alchemy of his murder weapon — an exotic knife purloined from one of his earlier crime scenes — kicks in, switching their souls.
The predator quickly realizes the potential benefits of his newfound disguise and seeks to take advantage of them. Millie, by contrast, becomes a fugitive since publicity surrounding The Butcher’s assault on her has made his appearance widely known.
Eventually enlisting the help of her two best friends, Nyla (Celeste O’Connor) and Joshua (Misha Osherovich), Millie scrambles to reverse the spell — which, she has learned, will become permanent if not undone within 24 hours.
Along with the unrestrained mayhem in which it engages, director and co-writer (with Michael Kennedy) Christopher Landon’s picture is further hobbled by chatter promoting notions of sexual fluidity. These come principally through would-be witty exchanges between political correctness maven Nyla and openly gay Joshua.
Compared to the misuse to which The Butcher puts the shop class table saw, however, such misguided dialogue seems a mere distraction.
The film contains excessive gory violence, a wayward view of human sexuality, graphic casual sex, about a half-dozen uses of profanity, several milder oaths, pervasive rough and frequent crude language and an obscene gesture. The Catholic News Service classification is O — morally offensive. The Motion Picture Association rating is R — restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.