The 1998 Nancy Meyers remake of Walt Disney’s The Parent Trap is actually one of my favorite movies.

First of all, it’s got a wonderfully clever plot device that never gets old: twins separated at birth discover each other’s existence and switch places in a conspiracy to reunite their estranged parents.

Second, it’s the movie that proves –despite all of her highly publicized problems — that Lindsay Lohan, who plays both twin roles, is a first-rate actor.

The rest of the cast is stellar. Both the comedy and the pathos work. It’s just a really, really well-crafted and enjoyable movie — on my short list — with movies like Back to the Future, My Cousin Vinny, Groundhog Day, and Defending Your Life — that I can rewatch endlessly.

But one part of the movie has always bothered the hell out of me.

Theodore Dreiser wrote An American Tragedy, a classic novel published in 1925 of a man who murders a former but nonetheless pregnant girlfriend by taking her out in a canoe and knocking her into a lake, drowning her. It was twice made into a movie — in 1931 and a 1951 remake retitled A Place in the Sun.

So when on a camping trip near the end of The Parent Trap, the twins — who see their father’s blonde bombshell fiancee Meredith Blake as an impediment to their plans — wait until she’s asleep in a sleeping bag on an air mattress after taking “one large sleeping pill,” and set her adrift on a lake, it never struck me as a cute practical joke suitable for a Disney movie.

In the movie Meredith just wakes up, stands on the air mattress, falls into the lake, and swims safely to shore. It struck me that the plot points of her drugging herself with a sleeping pill, a sleeping bag, and never establishing her as a strong swimmer, could easily have been turned by a cynical screenwriter like me into An American Tragedy.

So I did.

Back on October 11th, I went onto the IMDb message board for The Parent Trap and wrote a little cautionary tale of how the movie might have really ended:

AP (Napa Valley, August 31, 1998) — Two eleven-year-old twins were arrested by Napa County sheriff’s deputies today, charged with First Degree Murder for the premeditated drowning death of their prospective step-mother, Meredith Blake, 27, a Bay area publicist and runner up for Miss California in the Miss USA pageant.

The identical twins — Hallie Parker and Annie James — had recently been reunited after separation shortly after their birth, and conceived of the murder as part of their plan to reunite their long-estranged parents. On a camping trip with Blake and their father, Nicholas Parker, 44, a local vintner, they pushed the sleeping Blake’s air mattress into a lake. Blake, drowsy from a sleeping pill, fell off the air mattress trapped in her sleeping bag, and drowned. Her body was recovered by divers this afternoon.

The twins are currently in the custody of Child Protective Services awaiting psychiatric evaluations to determine their fitness to stand trial as adults.

AP (Chowchilla, October 9, 2009) — The notorious Parker Twins failed to make appearances again at their parole hearing held today at Valley State Prison for Women, where they are each serving life sentences for the 1998 murder of their prospective stepmother, lingerie model Meredith Blake.

Blake’s mother, Vicki, was once again present to present the parole board with a victim’s impact statement.

The twins’ parents, Nicholas and Elizabeth Parker, again flew in from their home in London to argue for their daughters’ release.

Parole was denied for the third time.

Comments from IMDb users on my little satire have been mixed. One comment was “That is so pathetic.” Another was “You really are a pathetic idiot. It was a movie so get over it. Grow up for heavens sake if that is possible for you to do. Which I highly doubt it is.”

On December 3rd I got my first IMDb compliment: “lol I thought it was pretty funny”

That was enough for me to decide to move the debate here.

Yes, I know it’s just a movie. The movie isn’t a crime against humanity. It just has one sequence that I think sends a bad message to kids.

We’re living in an era when the innocent practical jokes of Candid Camera have given way to the life-invasions of Borat.

Somewhere between politically correct intimidation of “That’s not funny!” and elaborate schemes designed actually to humiliate people to the extent of possible suicides, there needs to be some thinking about what’s a joke protected by the rights of free expression and what’s a crime that damages people for life.

I don’t think anything said by Michael Richards or Don Imus deserved punishment. It was just words. They were the ones who got punked by Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton.

However, Sacha Baron Cohen might well have crossed the line.

Now go and rent (don’t watch it on The Disney Channel — they censor the hell out of it!) one of my favorite movies, The Parent Trap.

My comic thriller Lady Magdalene’s — a movie I wrote, produced, directed, and acted in it — is now available for sale or rental on Video On Demand. If you like the way I think, I think you’ll like this movie. Check it out!

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