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A Disney live-action film that has been filmed twice. The original starred Hayley Mills and yielded three sequels which are hard to fit into one continuity (and are pretty much forgotten about). The remake starred a (surprisingly brilliant) pre-insanity Lindsay Lohan, Dennis Quaid, and the late Natasha Richardson.
Twin sisters have been separated nearly at birth when their parents divorced. The year their father is considering remarrying, the sisters meet each other at summer camp. On meeting, they plot to get their parents back together, a plot that involves each pretending to be the other. Hilarity Ensues.
The movie is based on a book, Das Doppelte Lottchen (The Double Lottes) which has also been filmed as Das Doppelte Lottchen (a version that retains author Erich Kästner as narrator), Twice Upon a Time, Hibari's Lullaby (a Japanese telling) and Watashi to Watashi: Futari no Lotte (an anime series).
"The Parent Trap" provides examples of:
- Acting for Two: Every single movie use this method. Of these movies, the only one that doesn't use Double Vision is Hibari's Lullaby (which avoids any shot in which the girls are both visible).
- Adaptational Villainy: The fiancée in the book was unsympathetic but hardly a villain. The fiancée in the films is a Child-Hater and a Gold Digger.
- Always Identical Twins
- But I Play One on TV: These movies have convinced a fair number of people, mainly children, that Hayley Mills and/or Lindsay Lohan actually has a twin. And Lohan played twins again, less successfully, when she was older.
- Butt Monkey: The fiancee (Vicky in the original, Meredith in the remake).
- Disneyfication: The original story was far more serious than the Disney movies — the father was distant, the mother was a wreck, and one twin falls ill.
- Don't Split Us Up
- Divorce Is Temporary: The twins actively invoke this.
- Escalating War: The prank war between the twins.
- First Father Wins
- Guess Who I'm Marrying
- Hilarity Ensues
- Hot Mom: Maureen O'Hara in the original, and Natasha Richardson in the 1998 remake.
- Identical Twin ID Tags: While at camp, the twins have different hairstyles and accessories (or lack thereof) that allows them to be differentiated. Averted when the Twin Switch comes and they remove these.
- Info Dump: For everyone who is involved in the main plot.
- It's a Small World After All: Lampshaded.
- Mythology Gag: A few sentences from the "Let's Get Together" song (made famous in the Hayley Mills version) are hummed/spoken by Lindsay Lohan at several points. It's also incorporated into the score as the first and last few bars of music heard in the movie.
- No Sympathy: In the 1961 version, one of the twins gets in trouble for having a messy cabin, even though it had obviously been sabotaged by pranksters. The 1998 version makes more sense, with the cabin sabotage being the climax of the prank war that gets them both in trouble.
- The Nose Knows: The dog is always able to detect that the twins have switched places.
- Now You Tell Me: A lot of characters find things out the hard way.
- Off to Boarding School: What would have happened if the fiancee married the father.
- One True Pairing: established in-universe, between Maggie McKendrick and Mitch Evers in the original, and Elizabeth James and Nick Parker in the remake-the daughters' reason for the trap.
- Parent Trap Plot: The Trope Namer.
- Parent with New Paramour
- Remake Cameo: Joanna Barnes played Vicki Robinson (the fiancee) in the Hayley Mills version and Vicki Blake (the fiancee's mother) in the Lindsay Lohan version.
- Rich Bitch: Vicky Robinson (from the Hayley Mills version) and Meredith Blake (from the Lindsay Lohan version). Both were also the Gold Digger and the Child-Hater.
- Rich in Dollars, Poor In Sense: Both Nick and Mitch.
- Separated at Birth
- Sibling Team: Once the girls discover they're sisters.
- Solomon Divorce: One of the best-known examples.
- Tomboy and Girly Girl: Sharon is a girly girl, having been raised as a child of Boston high society; Susan is the tomboy. The remake has high-society Londoner Annie as the girly-girl to laid-back Californian Hallie.
- Twin Switch
- Zany Scheme
The Original Verison
- Animated Credits Opening: With stop-motion.
- Artistic License Music: Hayley Mills is not moving her fingers when playing Beethoven's 5th Symphony on guitar. Then on "Let's Get Together" her strumming does not match the music (in addition to not moving her fingers).
- Colonel Bogey March: The other girls at the camp whistle this as the twins are escorted to the Isolation Cabin.
- Doomed New Clothes: Susan's new dress is ruined by Sharon as part of their prank war.
- Double Standard Abuse (Female on Male): Mom punches Dad in the eye.
- Fake American: Hayley Mills as both girls; one Bostonian, one Californian.
- Foot Focus: The bear cubs licking honey off of Vicky's feet while they're camping.
- Also Maggie, who is barefoot near the end of the movie and mentions that fact to Mitch after he compliments her on being a good mother. He responds by saying "I like you in your bare feet".
- Foregone Conclusion: The opening credits tell us the story in clay animation.
- History Repeats: In every sequel.
- Novelization: including a section of photos from the movie in the center of the book.
- Panty Shot: From one of the pranks during the dance, when Susan surreptitiously cuts the back off the skirt of Sharon's party dress.
- Vinyl Shatters
- What Could Have Been: The technique used to film both girls at once was new in The Sixties, so Walt Disney was skeptical, and wanted two separate girls in the lead, until he saw how well it worked.
The Lindsay Lohan Version
- Abbey Road Crossing: A second-long freeze frame as "Here Comes The Sun" plays in the background.
- Adaptation Expansion: The original movie ended when Mitch and Maggie fell back in love.
- Adaptation-Induced Plothole: Summer vacation in America is anywhere from two and half to three months and can last anywhere from May to August. Summer vacation in Britain on the other hand only lasts for six weeks and starts in July. It's even said that the girls were at camp for eight weeks.
- Bare Your Midriff: Meredith's camping clothes.
- Big Eater: Hallie, but not Annie.
- Bilingual Bonus: Annie takes news of her father remarrying so harshly, she rants in French.
- Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: The soon-to-be-Step-Mom for Hallie.
- Book Ends: As part of Alan Silvestri's score, short, dramatic instrumentals of "Let's get together, yeah, yeah, yeah," accompany both the opening Walt Disney Pictures logo and the last few seconds of the end credits.
- British Stuffiness: One of the twins is American and the other is British. Guess which is the proper one and which is the spunky one (at least initially).
- The Ditz: Both Marvas are quite bubble brained.
- Dramatic Unmask: Both twins take off their fencing masks to reveal they have the same face.
- Evil-Detecting Dog: Annie isn't exactly evil, but Hallie's dog Sammy still figures out that she's an impostor much earlier than her father and Chessy do, and (in a straighter example) barks at Meredith in the hotel.
- Fake Brit: Lindsay Lohan as Annie.
- Foreign Language Tirade: As noted under Bilingual Bonus.
- Fourth Date Marriage: Elizabeth and Nick, both times.
- Gilligan Cut:
Elizabeth: (to Annie) You're not to worry, okay?
- Gone Swimming, Clothes Stolen: The Strip Poker payoff at camp.
- Gratuitous French: Upon learning that her father intends to marry Meredith, Annie goes ballistic and starts swearing in French.
- Heavy Sleeper: Annie and her cabin didn't even stir as Hallie set up a Rube Goldberg style prank.
- Hideous Hangover Cure: Elizabeth panicked during the flight and drank everything in sight, so this was necessary.
- I'm a Man, I Can't Help It: Nick Parker. Annie lampshades this.
- Intoxication Ensues: Elizabeth may not drink much, but she's a total lightweight.
- It Tastes Like Feet: The bartender's Hideous Hangover Cure tastes and looks like tar.
- Little Black Dress: Martin, Elizabeth's butler and friend, suggests she take one on the trip to see Nick and switch the girls back.
- The Magic Poker Equation
- Montage: At the end of the movie, Elizabeth and Nick remarry, Martin proposes to Chessy, and Chessy says yes.
- Nice to the Waiter: Chessy and Martin are like family to their respective employers. Averted with Meredith who treats Chessy like a talking dog who would be summoned with a bell.
- Old Man Marrying a Child: Used as an indirect accusation, delivered with Sugary Malice. When Nick tells his daughter that Meredith is about to become part of the family, she surely understands right away that he's talking about marriage. However, she pretends to innocently misunderstand him and get all ecstatic about how he's finally getting one more daughter by adopting her.
- Ooh, Me Accent's Slipping: Happens to both Hallie and Annie, more often to whoever has a British accent at the moment. Often it's the In-Character version of the trope. Lohan had to play four accents — American, British, American pretending to be British, and British pretending to be American. The latter two had accents slipping.
- And Lohan does a remarkable job in the scene at the hotel where she's basically playing four characters at once — Hallie, Annie, Hallie pretending to be Annie and Annie pretending to be Hallie. She switches up the accents just enough to do exactly what Hallie and Annie were after (confuse the heck out of Mom and Dad).
- Parents Know Their Children: Sort of — the father looks each twin in the eye and declares which one is Hallie; however, it's not made clear if he's right, since the twins keep playing up the charade and make him question his own judgment.
- Pet Homosexual: Meredith's sassy gay assistant: "Ooh, Ice Woman!"
- Reality Ensues: The twins can act like each other and mimic the other's accent but they still have very different habits and quirks. "I changed at camp" is only going to work so many times on people who have known the other for a decade.
- Reassigned to Antarctica: Meredith said multiple times that as soon as she married Nick, she was shipping the kids far, far away (once she said Timbuktu, another time she was Switzerland.)
- The Reveal: In-universe, several times: first Hallie and Annie to each other (twice), then Annie to Chessy, then Hallie to her grandfather, then Hallie to her mother. And then Elizabeth dealing with the additional reveal of Nick's engagement to Meredith.
- Rhetorical Question Blunder: When Elizabeth is getting emotional about the thought of meeting Nick for the first time after so many years, she spouts off several of these to Martin.
- Sand in My Eyes: Elizabeth is pleased that Nick still remembers the wine from their first wedding.
- Scream Discretion Shot: When Hallie pierces Annie's ears, and when the girls drag Annie's mattress into a lake.
- Servile Snarker: Nick's housekeeper, Chessy, and Elizabeth's butler, Martin. They also become attracted to each other at first sight and end up being the Beta Couple.
- "Shut Up" Kiss
- Sticky Situation: Annie steps into a sticky trap of molasses laid out by Hallie before getting water balloons dropped around her.
- Sword Fight: Hallie and Annie's first meeting is through an absurdly over-the-top "fencing match" at camp. The girls have fencing masks on as a way to save on special effects, to cover the faces of the stunt people, and for the big reveal that they both look alike when they take the masks off and face each other.
- Training Montage
- Villainous Breakdown: Meredith has one after being pranked by the twins and Nick dumps her.
- You Are Grounded: After the girls scare Meredith off.
Up to your room. Now.