Things that still bug us about the Parent Trap 20 years later

The Parent Trap was released in 1998, a remake of the 1961 Disney classic. It was Lindsay Lohan’s big-screen début, and she pulled double duty right off the bat, playing twins Hallie and Annie, who had no idea the other existed. It’s a heartwarming tale about two sisters’ plan to get their divorced parents back together, until you scratch the surface for just a bit. Then you find nothing about the plot makes sense, or would be possible without serious child endangerment and neglect. These are the things that still bug us about the Parent Trap.

Can we talk about that custody agreement?

So, Nick and Elizabeth’s whirlwind romance ends as quickly as it began – no big surprise there. They never seem to be too compatible with each other.

Anyway, they have twins before they split and… just decide to each take one? How did they decide who gets which twin? The more disturbing thing, though, is the subtext of that plot device: both parents willingly give up on ever seeing 50 percent of their children – forever. We don’t know which judge signed off on this, but we hope they’re in jail.

Why did Martin even come with Annie to summer camp?

This is a minor quibble in the grand scheme of things, but it always bothered us. So Martin, Annie’s butler, comes with her in a rented limo (you really needed a limo, Annie?) to see her off to summer camp.

He gets out with her, says goodbye, and does that elaborate handshake thing they have. He then gets back in the car and asks the driver to take him right back to the airport. Seriously? You flew eight or nine hours from London to the east coast for a handshake?

It makes zero sense for Annie and Hallie to end up at the same camp

Are there no summer camps in England? Did Annie really have to fly across the Atlantic just for camp? But that’s not even the biggest question. In what world would Hallie and Annie find themselves in the same camp?

They don’t seem to have any shared interests. Sure, Hallie is the outdoors-y type who likes hiking and whatnot, but Annie’s the type of girl who rolls in wearing heels and a tweed suit. We’ve got a hunch that type of person would not enjoy that type of camp.

‘Oh look, it’s a girl who looks exactly like me’

The film sets up the twins’ first meeting through a convoluted fencing match – conveniently chosen because their faces are covered.

Nevermind the fact that despite not being given any indication Annie had ever fenced before, she beats Hallie right off the bat. Once the girls finally unmask, they find a mirror version of themselves staring back at them. Are their minds blown? Do they start bawling? Nah, they play it off like meeting an exact replica of yourself is no big deal. And everyone else at camp does the same.

The Marvas are really bad guardians

This could easily extend to every adult who works at Camp Walden, but let’s focus on Marva Kulp, Sr. and her daughter, since they seem to be running things. Adult supervision at the camp is minimal to non-existent.

There’s an underage poker gambling ring going on at Walden, and no adult seems to know or care. The children – who are elven years old, mind you – are left to their own devices, completely free to set up high-concept pranks or come and go as they please.

Who put the beds on the roof?

Since they’re bitter enemies now, Hallie, Annie, and their respective posses begin playing extremely elaborate pranks on each other. Annie and her crew draw first blood by placing several beds on the roof of Hallie’s cabin.

How in the world did a bunch of waifish preteens manage to lift full-sized beds to the roof of a building?! To get them back, Hallie and her buddies somehow fill the other girls’ cabin with shaving cream, water balloons, and chocolate syrup – without waking anyone up or having the adults notice. Ummm… Sure.

What’s the deal with the isolation cabin?

Twenty years later, we’re still not sure what that isolation cabin was about. The rules of Camp Walden’s version of Abu Ghraib are kinda fuzzy – is it far from the rest of camp?

How long are Annie and Hallie supposed to stay there? Why are children again being left unsupervised? Do the parents know it exists as punishment? None are ever answered. Side note: why did the entire camp have to march with them, only to leave as soon as they got there? Way to show us who’s important, movie.

Good friends, better enemies

Annie and Hallie hate each other from the moment they first meet, which is a little odd considering they’re identical, but whatever.

Pushing each other into a trough of water doesn’t seem sufficient grounds for lifelong enmity, but let’s roll with it. Then, when the two are in the isolation cabin, there’s a storm outside. One twin helps the other close a window that’s stuck and, to quote Step Brothers, it’s a “Did we just become best friends?!” moment. Relationships don’t make any sense in this movie.

There’s a boy at this all-girls’ camp – and no one cares

The Parent Trap first opens on Camp Walden, an all-girls’ summer camp in Maine. Shortly thereafter, we learn a boy had been left at camp, and he pops up here and there, understandably frantic to get out of there.

Why are adults in the Parent Trap universe the worst? His parents either didn’t know or didn’t care they were leaving him at an all-girls’ camp, and no camp crew seemed to give much of a hoot either. Poor fella. Fun fact: he was played by Lindsay Lohan’s brother Mike.

The twins’ plan is actually terrible

The parent trap for which the movie’s named is Annie and Hallie’s grand scheme to get their parents back together.

We’re willing to accept kids don’t really understand how adult relationships work, and therefore didn’t realize their folks were completely wrong for each other, but their plan has so many moving parts that there’s simply no way it could’ve possibly worked. For one, it hinges on both parents not realizing the child they sent to camp isn’t the same one they got back. Absurdly, that’s actually the most believable part.

How’d they get everyone at camp to play along?

Here’s another thing about their plan that makes no sense whatsoever. So the James and Parker families didn’t know about the switch – or that the twins were even aware of each other’s existence – but everyone at camp certainly was from pretty much day one.

Then, on the final day when everyone’s saying their goodbyes, did no one care they switched? Picking apart identical twins is actually pretty easy once you get to know them. You dropped the ball again, Marvas!

We still have nightmares about the ear piercing scene

Further proof that nothing in the Parent Trap would be possible without gross child abandonment, when the twins are in the isolation cabin Hallie pierces Annie’s ears because her own ears are pierced.

Makes total sense, right? She assures Annie it’s “no big deal” and then holds a needle under a match for like a second, and goes, “There, sterlizied.” Um, it IS a big deal and that’s not how sterilization works. Stabbing a needle through someone’s ear like Norman Bates in Psycho isn’t a good way to pierce.

Both are method actors apparently

For the switch to work, Annie has to lose her English accent while Hallie has to put one on for the entire time they’re pretending to be the other twin.

They’re not professionally trained actors, so you mean to tell us there wasn’t a single slip-up where one girl just naturally fell back into her normal accent? This is made all the more egregious by the fact that Lindsay Lohan seems to forget which twin she’s playing on occasion, slipping in and out of the English accent at random.

Mother of the year

When “Annie” returns from Camp Walden – after being gone for eight weeks, remember – who’s there to pick her up? Why, trusty butler Martin, naturally.

Okay, Elizabeth is an elite fashion designer who’s super busy, but when “Annie” comes back to the house, her mom is… just there, not doing much of anything. What, you couldn’t drag yourself to see your kid after eight weeks apart? The fact she abandoned her other child makes a little more sense now. Our guess? It was just an excuse to do that handshake again.

We don’t hate Meredith, we want her life

On the other side of the pond, “Hallie” gets to meet dad for the first time, as well as his nanny/cook/servant Chessy. Fun times abound, until she meets her dad’s new fiancée, Meredith.

She’s a very successful publicist, and had just recently taken on the account for Nick’s Napa Valley vineyard, which is presumably big bucks. She tells Hallie she’s 26 years old. Twenty six! Sure, when we watched as kids she may as well have been a million, but 26 is a baby. How’d she become a bigshot publicist?

An express checkout wedding

So Nick and Meredith are planning to marry. Since Hallie had never met her before, we can deduce they’ve known each other for a grand total of eight weeks, but… When it’s right, it’s right?

The girls have just two weeks to stop the wedding, but it doesn’t seem like much of a problem because the happy couple doesn’t seem to have locked anything down. They don’t even really have a venue yet! We know they’re rich, but can rich people really do everything for a wedding in two weeks?

Some real talk about Meredith

We know Meredith is a stepmom in a Disney film – or plans on being one – so she’s automatically evil, but bear with us. What makes her so bad?

The girls are convinced she’s only after their dad for his money, but she seems to be pretty successful in her own right. Sure, Nick’s rich, but he’s handsome and has a vineyard! Is money really the only explanation? Even when she forces him to choose between her and the twins, her big threat is boarding school in Switzerland. Oh, the horror.

Really sticking to their guns about the separation thing, huh?

When Hallie reveals herself to her mother as definitely not the daughter she thought she was, Elizabeth agrees to fly across the Atlantic to switch them again.

Putting aside the message that decision sends Hallie, who’s no less Elizabeth’s child than Annie is, what’s her thought process? She drops her extremely busy fashion design gig, packs her kid and her butler, and just flies off? What if Nick and Annie weren’t home? She never thinks to pick up the phone and just, y’know, make sure someone’s there when they arrive.

Look, murder is never okay

As part of Annie and Hallie’s plan to drive a wedge between Nick and Meredith so he can be with their mom, they play a series of increasingly worrying pranks on her.

The old rocks in the backpack routine? Classic! The time-tested lizard in the hair bit? Gets ’em every time! But then things go from whimsical to attempted murder, when the girls drag Meredith and her air mattress out of her tent and send them into the lake. What if a lake monster got her? What if she drowned?

The Chessy-Martin subplot makes no sense

Let’s talk about Chessy and Martin for a second, who work for Nick and Elizabeth, respectively. Martin is a total creep who parades around his boss and her underage child wearing nothing but speedos and a smile.

He’s also willing to chuck a toy he knows belongs to a kid in the garbage. But anyway, he proposes to Chessy at the movie’s conclusion. Again, they’ve known each other for, what, a couple of days? If it doesn’t work and they (also) get divorced, those will be some awkward family get-togethers.

Nick and Liz’s relationship will never work

Right before they decide to give it another go, Nick and Elizabeth work out a plan where each will get one twin at a specific time. What, you couldn’t do that 11 years ago?

It only just occurred to you never acknowledging their existence is insane? Better late than never, fine, but when they do decide to get together again… Why would it work? They’re completely different people who don’t seem to have anything in common. They’re not just the world’s worst parents – they might be the world’s worst people.