Forget 'Meatballs' or 'Wet Hot American Summer.' Everyone's favorite summer camp movie seems to be 'The Parent Trap,' where Hayley Mills goes to camp and instead of finding mosquitoes and poison ivy finds the identical twin sister she never knew she had. Together, they scheme to reunite their divorced parents by switching places after camp.
Released 50 years ago this week (on June 21, 1961), the live-action Disney film has remained a childhood favorite for half a century, and it proved influential in ways probably no one associated with it would have imagined.
The film marked the second of six Disney movies for child star Mills, reuniting her with David Swift, who'd directed her in Disney's 'Pollyanna.' The movie rested on Mills' ability to play two very different sisters: prim, Boston-bred Sharon, and outdoorsy California tomboy Susan. Initially, the production brought them together in trick-photography shots only a few times, with a body double handling the rest, but when Walt Disney saw how seamless and effective the gimmick was, he ordered reshoots that involved more scenes of Susan and Sharon sharing a frame. Editor Philip W. Anderson would ultimately earn an Oscar nomination for pulling off this special effect.
The movie's success led to a number of unexpected spinoffs. "Let's Get Together," Hayley Mills' on-screen duet with herself, charted as a single in September 1961, reaching No. 8 on the Billboard Hot 100. That led to Mills recording an album, 'Let's Get Together With Hayley Mills.'
On TV, the movie's premise and editing gimmick became a feature of hit 1963-66 sitcom 'The Patty Duke Show,' in which teen star Duke played "identical cousins" with different personalities. Brian Keith, who played the divorced dad in 'Parent Trap,' soon landed his signature role on the 1966-71 sitcom 'Family Affair,' again playing a wealthy bachelor who suddenly finds himself beset by twin children (and their older sister). In the 1980s, a 40-ish Mills reprised her twin 'Parent Trap' roles in three Disney made-for-TV sequels.
Finally, of course, there was the 1998 big-screen remake, which launched the career of Lindsay Lohan. It's hard to watch that movie now without thinking of all the squandered promise, but at least as an 11-year-old, she was a happy camper.
1905 (June 19): The first nickelodeon opens in Pittsburgh, helping to transform film into a mass medium. For five cents apiece, 96 patrons could attend shows that included both short films and live vaudeville acts.
1975 (June 20): 'Jaws' is released, making an A-list director out of Steven Spielberg, changing summer moviegoing habits forever, and keeping leery swimmers out of the ocean to this day.
1989 (June 23): Tim Burton's 'Batman' is released. Months of careful advance marketing makes the Caped Crusader saga the first summer "event" movie, and its success makes Burton's career and inspires the direction of comic-book films for the next decade.
2005 (June 24): Tom Cruise gives his notorious "Psychiatry is a pseudoscience" interview on 'Today,' defending Scientology's approach to depression while criticizing interviewer Matt Lauer and one-time Cruise pal Brooke Shields. Cruise and Shields ultimately reconcile, but this interview, along with his couch-jumping incident on 'Oprah' (expressing his glee over new love Katie Holmes) marks a public-image meltdown from which the superstar has never recovered.
2008 (June 22): Taboo-breaking comedian George Carlin dies at 71. Though not known for his film work, he played memorable roles in 'Car Wash,' the 'Bill & Ted' movies, and Pixar's 'Cars.'
2009 (June 25): Michael Jackson dies at 50 in Los Angeles amid rehearsals for a series of London concerts expected to mark his farewell to live performance. Rehearsal footage is released later that year as the concert doc 'This Is It,' marking the first smash of the King of Pop's posthumous career.
Nicole Kidman, whose movies include 'Birth' and 'Birthday Girl,' is a birthday girl this week, marking her 44th birthday on June 20. Other Oscar-winners celebrating include Martin Landau (83, also on the 20th), Meryl Streep (62 on June 22) and Frances McDormand (54 on June 23). Oscar-nominated stars with birthdays include Kathleen Turner (57 on June 19), Gena Rowlands (81, also on the 19th), and Kris Kristofferson, who turned 75 on June 22.
Oscar-winner Olympia Dukakis and her 'Moonstruck' castmate John Mahoney were both born on June 20; she's 80, he's 71. 'Robocop' stars Peter Weller and Nancy Allen share a June 24 birthday; he turns 64, she turns 61.
Christopher Mintz-Plasse doesn't need that fake "McLovin" I.D. anymore; he turned 22 on June 20. Other comedy stars celebrating include Mary Lynn Rajskub (40 on June 22), Donald Faison (37, also on the 22nd), Mindy Kaling (32 on the 24th) and Ricky Gervais, who hits the big 5-0 on the 25th.
Character actors we love who are celebrating this week: Hugh Dancy (36 on June 19), Paul Dano (27 on the 19th), Quinton "Rampage" Jackson (33 on June 20), John Goodman (59 the same day), Bruce Campbell (53 on June 22), Amy Brenneman (47, also on the 22nd), Joel Edgerton (37 on June 23), Bryan Brown 64, also on the 23rd) and Tommy "Tiny" Lister (53 on June 24).
Perpetual starlets with birthdays this week include Zoe Saldana (33 on June 19), Robin Tunney (39, also on the 19th), Mia Sara (44, the same day), Juliette Lewis (38 on June 21), Selma Blair (39 on June 23), Minka Kelly (31 on June 24), Carla Gallo (36, also on the 24th) and Linda Cardellini (36 the next day). On the other side of the aisle, birthday heartthrobs include Josh Lucas (40 on June 20), Rain (29 on June 25) and Jason Lewis (40, the same day).
Blow out the candles for the behind-the-camera birthdays of a bevy of directors this week: Robert Rodriguez (who turned 49 on June 20), Tony Scott (67 on June 21), Lana (née Larry) Wachowski (46, also on the 21st), Uwe Boll (46 a day later), Joss Whedon (47 on the 23rd) and Timur Bekmambetov (the 'Wanted' man hits 5-0 on June 25).
'Cars 2' - Trailer No. 3
'Cars 2' (G)
Starring: Owen Wilson, Larry the Cable Guy, John Turturro, Eddie Izzard, Michael Caine
Directed By: Brad Lewis and John Lasseter
What's It About? Race car Lightning (Wilson) and tow truck Mater (Larry the Cable Guy) travel overseas for a world championship race, but Mater gets entangled in a web of international espionage.
Why Should You See It? No one in movies has a better track record than Pixar, whose 'Toy Story' trilogy disabused us of the notion that sequels have to suck. Speaking of, there's reportedly a 'Toy Story' short at the beginning of 'Cars 2,' which involves Ken and Barbie's effort to take a Hawaiian cruise, but which features the rest of Andy's toybox gang as well.
You Might Like It If You Like: Pixar movies (and who doesn't?), the first 'Cars,' 'The Man Who Knew Too Much'
'Bad Teacher' (R)
Starring: Cameron Diaz, Justin Timberlake, Jason Segel, Lucy Punch, Phyllis Smith
Directed By: Jake Kasdan
What's It About? Playing the worst possible role model for her junior-high charges, Diaz's foul-mouthed, substance-abusing instructor is just marking time until she can earn enough money to buy breast implants land a rich husband. Nerdy sub Timberlake seems to fit the bill, while shlubby gym teacher Segel pines for her from afar.
Why Should You See It? Diaz is at her best when she's in reckless, knockabout comedy mode, and she hasn't had a part this juicy in ages. The film has an 'Office' pedigree (including writers Gene Stupnitsky and Lee Eisenberg and co-star Smith). Now that the success of 'Bridesmaids' has made it permissible for female-driven comedies to be as coarse and vulgar as male-driven ones, your ticket purchase is actually striking a blow for sisterhood.
You Might Like It If You Like: 'Bad Santa,' 'The Sweetest Thing,' 'There's Something About Mary'
Exclusive Photos from 'Bad Teacher'
Diaz and Timberlake and Other Exes Who've Reunited On-Screen
'Conan O'Brien Can't Stop' is a backstage/concert documentary about O'Brien's 2010 comedy tour, during which he speaks candidly about his exile from late-night TV and the corrupting power of fame.
Showtimes & Tickets | Trailer | Reviews: Moviefone | Cinematical
'A Better Life' updates the premise of the classic postwar Italian film 'The Bicycle Thief' to present-day Los Angeles, where an illegal-immigrant dad ('Weeds' regular Demián Bichir) tries to build a gardening business as a legacy for his son, only to see his livelihood jeopardized by the theft of his truck.
Showtimes & Tickets | Trailers & Clips | Reviews | Interview with Director Chris Weitz
•'Green Lantern' - DC Comics purists will balk, but if you're looking for mindless, escapist summer superhero fun, Ryan Reynolds is your man. Showtimes & Tickets: 2D | 3D | Trailers & Clips | Reviews
•'Mr. Popper's Penguins' - Fans of the classic children's book will balk, but if you're looking for mindless, escapist, summer animal-movie fun, Jim Carrey is your man. Showtimes & Tickets | Trailers & Clips | Reviews
•'Page One' - Fans of Rupert Murdoch will balk, but if you're looking for a thought-provoking, behind-the-scenes summer documentary on the dramatic changes underway in the newspaper business, New York Times media columnist David Carr is your man. Showtimes & Tickets | Trailers & Clips | Cinematical's Review
New on DVD: 'The Adjustment Bureau' may not be the best-ever adaptation of one of Philip K. Dick's brain-twisting sci-fi stories (that crown belongs to 'Blade Runner'), but it does have a stylish, 'Inception'-y feel to it, and you can't ask for more reliable leads than Matt Damon and Emily Blunt, as would-be lovers kept apart by shadowy, reality-bending agents. The Blu-ray has a cool interactive map of New York that lets you travel through the agents' portals to see behind-the-scenes video. Buy or rent the DVD | More new DVD releases
On Our Netflix Queue: Now that summer has officially started, which movie chestnut puts you in a summer frame of mind? 'Endless Summer'? 'A Summer Place'? How about the underrated 1986 comedy 'One Crazy Summer'? John Cusack - who turns 45 (!) next week - is at his most charmingly nerdy as a young man who goes on a Cape Cod vacation with his pals (indispensible '80s goofballs Curtis Armstrong and Bobcat Goldthwait), pines after a dream girl (Demi Moore, still a fresh-faced ingenue and not yet a hardbodied Amazon) and enters a yacht race against the local preppies. All pretty harmless, but director Savage Steve Holland brings a cartoonist's absurdist eye to the proceedings, notably, a priceless sequence spoofing Godzilla movies that involves a fire-breathing Goldthwait stomping around in a lizard suit. Buy or rent the DVD
On TV: Need to catch up with your Autobot and Decepticon lore before 'Transformers: Dark of the Moon' opens next Wednesday? Refresh your knowledge of the mutable robots by watching the first two installments this weekend. The 2007 'Transformers' is on TNT on Friday at 8PM, while 2009's 'Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen' follows on Saturday at 2:45 PM on Cinemax's ActionMax. It's probably your last chance to see Megan Fox rock those Daisy Dukes; alas, we shall not see their like again. Check your local listings
Follow Gary Susman on Twitter: @garysusman.