The Critics: Thank heaven for little girls

Hollywood likes its children to be cunning. It often calls on them to bring lovers back together and outwit the vile. A bargain is struck - life will be innocent and delightful if the child can achieve something monumentally adult first. Nancy Meyers's remake of The Parent Trap (U), the 1961 Disney film, does this. It has twin 11-year-old girls accidentally reunited after years of separation, plotting to bring their divorced parents (Dennis Quaid and Natasha Richardson) back together.

In the original film, it was Hayley Mills who played both twins. This must have been a sapping process - acting at brick walls, responding to a performer that's inside your head and scheduled to emerge some time after lunch. There was always something deliberately respectable about Mills, but in that film, something unselfishly fragile too. Her innocence lay in her articulation. Phrases were elided up and then compressed in the haste of emphasis. This gave the original Parent Trap a sweetness, even though it was really a film about separation and tremendous longing.

Although the remake is purposefully sillier, it hasn't the moments of openness, the baby-bird gape of the original. The only new thing it has to offer is its newness. There is an evil girlfriend with a chin, and a Labrador. It's pantomime, really. The two girls (both played by the freckled Lindsay Lohan) are rational beyond endurance whilst the others rush about shrieking in primary colours. A butler emerges in blue Y-fronts; the children avert their eyes. However temporarily mature, there's only so much they can take.

The Boys (18) is The Parent Trap's inverse. It's clever, and cripples delight. Three brothers live with their tormented women in a Sydney suburb. The boy-men, now in their early thirties, have always been thugs, and the women (headed by Toni Collette) probably always chain-smoked through lemon lips. One of the boys (David Wenham) is just out of prison, where he "read a Science Fiction novel", apparently. He raged before, but now feels qualified to rage and chat, and his low-calorie mantras make his housemates feel an almost physical pain. Whenever he starts going on, in his deviously benign voice, about the Magic of Freedom (always the amateur philosopher's favourite topic), Colette aggressively crosses her arms and Mum clutches her stomach. His brothers snarl. Then they all bitch and threaten and gaze gloomily at the telly. Director Rowan Woods peers through cracks in doors, as though ashamed to report the full extent of what's going on. But it's too tense ever to be sodden and dreary.

Lynette Curran as Mum gets it so right. There she is, with her head of buoyant curls, hopeful in jaunty socks, and yet she's creator and guard to such heartless, punitive children. Her bewilderment is immense. By the end of the film it's everywhere, like the goblin in one of Brian Patten's poems that "squats inside you, distributing poisons". Woods offers little analysis of the dysfunction, and although there is little plot to speak of, these people still emerge as characters. This is a brilliant, horrible film, a very unkind Mike Leigh - it's all untenderness and pale necks, the lard beneath the skin.

Three years ago someone bought me a David Duchovny calendar. I took it as an ironic Christmas present, which always means a car ride to the charity shop. It showed Duchovny in denim, Duchovny accidentally topless, Duchovny in soft greys. He is one of those Hollywood actors who in real life is rocky smart and married for love. But unfortunately there is nothing of his PhD about Duchovny's face, nothing speculative or mysterious. He's a man who conditions his hair.

Certainly, it's tough to buy him as a Californian surgeon struck off for operating while high on amphetamines. In Playing God (18) he is jobless, and spends his time wrapped in a blanket on the settee drinking heroin milkshakes and screening calls. One day he meets a crime boss (Timothy Hutton) who employs him as quack to the lawless. I suppose there is something Faustian about all of this, but Hutton's baddy, with his golden rinse and brattish folly, is precisely the kind of sexy rascal Duchovny should mimic. Playing God borrows from 1970s cop shows (keyboards and lip gloss) and is funny by accident. Hutton's character is called Raymond Blossom - a collection of delicious consonants surely best articulated by Rowan Atkinson.

I thought I might laugh at The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (18), re-released in time for Christmas (very humbug). But Tobe Hooper's 1974 gloob flick is too adroit ever to be a giggle. A van full of young, hippy-ish Americans mistakenly arrives at the house of a chap who chops up anyone who stops by. The scariest thing about Hooper's murderer is that he trudges. His behaviour is metronomic.

Hooper's Texas is a melancholy place. It's just dust and space, ripped through by a few twentysomethings with progressive ideas and optimistic bodies. They are dealt with accordingly. The film has more to say about innocence than you care to remember.

Arts and Entertainment
Performers drink tea at the Glastonbury festival in 2010

GlastonburyWI to make debut appearance at Somerset festival

Arts and Entertainment
Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister

TV reviewIt has taken seven episodes for Game of Thrones season five to hit its stride

Arts and Entertainment
Jesuthasan Antonythasan as Dheepan

FilmPalme d'Or goes to radical and astonishing film that turns conventional thinking about immigrants on its head

Arts and Entertainment
Måns Zelmerlöw performing

Eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
Graham Norton was back in the commentating seat for Eurovision 2015

Eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
The light stuff: Britt Robertson and George Clooney in ‘Tomorrowland: a World Beyond’
film review
Arts and Entertainment
Reawakening: can Jon Hamm’s Don Draper find enlightenment in the final ‘Mad Men’?
tv reviewNot quite, but it's an enlightening finale for Don Draper spoiler alert
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Breakfast Show’s Nick Grimshaw

Radio
Arts and Entertainment

Eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
'Youth' cast members Paul Dano, Jane Fonda, Harvey Keitel, Rachel Weisz, and Michael Caine pose for photographers at Cannes Film Festival
film
Arts and Entertainment
Adam West as Batman and Burt Ward and Robin in the 1960s Batman TV show

Comics
Arts and Entertainment
I am flute: Azeem Ward and his now-famous instrument
music
Arts and Entertainment
A glass act: Dr Chris van Tulleken (left) and twin Xand get set for their drinking challenge
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
MIA perform at Lovebox 2014 in London Fields, Hackney

music
Arts and Entertainment
Finnish punk band PKN hope to enter Eurovision 2015 and raise awareness for Down's Syndrome

eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
William Shakespeare on the cover of John Gerard's The Herball or Generall Historie of Plantes

books
Arts and Entertainment

Game of Thrones review
Arts and Entertainment
Grayson Perry dedicates his Essex home to Julie

Potter's attempt to create an Essex Taj Mahal was a lovely treat

tv
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from the original Swedish version of the sci-fi TV drama ‘Real Humans’
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Hugh Keays-Byrne plays Immortan Joe, the terrifying gang leader, in the new film
filmActor who played Toecutter returns - but as a different villain in reboot
Arts and Entertainment
Charlize Theron as Imperator Furiosa in Mad Max: Fury Road
film
Arts and Entertainment
Jessica Hynes in W1A
tvReview: Perhaps the creators of W1A should lay off the copy and paste function spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
Power play: Mitsuko Uchida in concert

classical
Arts and Entertainment
Dangerous liaisons: Dominic West, Jake Richard Siciliano, Maura Tierney and Leya Catlett in ‘The Affair’ – a contradictory drama but one which is sure to reel the viewers in
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Herring, pictured performing at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival two years ago
comedy
Arts and Entertainment
Music freak: Max Runham in the funfair band
theatre
Arts and Entertainment
film 'I felt under-used by Hollywood'
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

    Abuse - and the hell that follows

    James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
    Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

    It's oh so quiet!

    The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
    'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

    'Timeless fashion'

    It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
    If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

    Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

    Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
    New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

    Evolution of swimwear

    From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
    Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

    Sun, sex and an anthropological study

    One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
    From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

    Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

    'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
    'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

    Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

    This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
    Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

    Songs from the bell jar

    Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
    How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

    One man's day in high heels

    ...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
    Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

    Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

    Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
    The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

    King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

    The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
    More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

    End of the Aussie brain drain

    More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
    Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

    Can meditation be bad for you?

    Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
    Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

    Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

    Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine