In the new thriller ‘The Intruder,’ Dennis Quaid plays an outdoorsy Napa Valley dad with a dark secret. In 1998’s hit film ‘The Parent Trap,’ he also plays an outdoorsy Napa Valley dad with a dark secret. Coincidence? We’re a-Quaid not!
By Kate Knibbs
On the surface, the new thriller The Intruder does not closely resemble the 1998 children’s film The Parent Trap. One is intended to be suspenseful and spooky, while the other is meant to warm the heart and give kids unrealistic expectations about divorce. The Intruder is the story of a young, bougie couple, Scott and Annie Russell (Michael Ealy and Meagan Good), who buy a Napa Valley mansion from sad widower Charlie Peck (Dennis Quaid). Charlie continues to hang around on the property and creep everybody out; mayhem and bloodshed follow. The Parent Trap, meanwhile, stars Lindsay Lohan as identical twins Annie and Hallie, who were split up at birth by their divorced parents Nick Parker (Quaid again) and Elizabeth James (Natasha Richardson) and who plot to reunite their mom and dad; a romantic and decidedly nonviolent farce follows. Upon closer inspection, though, the films have plenty in common. The Intruder director Deon Taylor outfits Foxglove, Scott and Annie’s new estate, with a kitchen and home decor gorgeous enough to rival The Parent Trap director Nancy Meyers’s famously upscale interiors. Both films focus on the interpersonal problems of the very rich. Both involve mischief in the woods. Both have plots hinging on unconventional, over-the-top reactions to marital strife. And most importantly, both feature Dennis Quaid as a house-proud, outdoorsy Napa Valley father hiding a disturbing secret.
Does Dennis Quaid simply adore portraying Napa Valley papas with interesting relationships with the truth? Perhaps. But maybe The Parent Trap wasn’t the end of Nick Parker’s story, and Quaid is actually returning to an old role to give it the proper finish. If you squint a little, The Intruder is a dark follow-up, and Charlie Peck is an older and more outwardly twisted Nick.
The Parent Trap ends on a happy note, with Nick and Elizabeth bringing Hallie and Annie back together in London and pledging to make it work.
Let’s get real, though: Nick and Elizabeth chose a wildly selfish, cruel custody arrangement. They each fully abandoned a child instead of dealing with the logistics of their divorce. They kept identical twins apart, robbed them of both a sibling and parental relationship, and lied to them for more than a decade—all out of spite. Would two people that dysfunctional, with that much baggage, really stay together? What’s more, throughout most of The Parent Trap, Nick was about to marry a much-younger woman he had just met, whom he only bothered to introduce to his daughter after their engagement, just two weeks before their wedding. “Did I ever mention to you that Hallie was a twin?” he asks his fiancée, Meredith, nonchalantly, as though unaware that concealing the existence of your daughter from your future wife is not normal behavior. (He also doesn’t seem to think anything is wrong when his preteen daughters drug fiancée Meredith and then push her into the middle of the lake, even though she could have died if she rolled over; a casual attitude toward human life appears to run in the family.)
Not only was he cruel and secretive, he was demonstrably impulsive. He was also obsessive: Nick reveals to Elizabeth that he meticulously tracked down each and every available bottle of wine that they served at their wedding. He isn’t a dude who lets things go easily. Nor is he a dude capable of forming normal human bonds. His only friend appears to be his servant, Chessy, and he fully doesn’t notice when his daughter is replaced by a doppelgänger stranger. The one thing that he does appear to care for is his opulent ranch, Parker Knoll.
This brings us to Charlie Peck, the villain of The Intruder, who is also obsessive, impulsive, cruel, and secretive. Charlie introduces himself to Scott and Annie with a sob story: His wife died of cancer in their home, and he is planning to move to Florida to be near one of his daughters. But he repeatedly delays his departure, appearing at the house uninvited with increasing frequency. He hatches a plan to kill Scott and seduce Annie, and the couple ultimately has a violent showdown with him. (They also discover that his daughter has fled and that he actually killed his wife when she suggested divorce.) While Nick is not violent in The Parent Trap, his bad temper and history of making completely deranged choices about his family suggest that he could unravel in adverse circumstances, and Charlie presents like a downtrodden, older version of Nick. They dress in the same dude-ranch dad fashion and exhibit many of the same personality traits. They both love the outdoors, with Charlie going hunting and Nick going camping and horseback riding. They are both comfortable lying about their families, with Nick hiding the fact that he has a daughter who he abandoned from his fiancée, and Charlie pretending that his wife died of cancer and that he and his daughter are on speaking terms.
But if The Intruder and The Parent Trap take place in the same cinematic universe and Nick Parker is actually Charlie Peck, you may be wondering, where are the original twin daughters and wife? In London, alive, I hope! But also maybe dead.
The Intruder shows photographs of Charlie with his wife and daughters, and they are not the same family he had in The Parent Trap. This is because, as I mentioned, there is no way that the parents’ reunion would have worked out. If the second divorce was acrimonious, perhaps Nick returned to Napa Valley to lick his wounds. Based on the timeline of The Parent Trap, it is feasible that, if Nick and Elizabeth split up soon after reuniting, Nick could’ve remarried quickly—within as little as six weeks, based on his previous behavior—and had children in 1998. This would put the kids in their late teens or early 20s in The Intruder, which fits, as Charlie’s daughter is briefly shown at the end of the movie and appears to be that age. Hallie and Annie could’ve also had a serious break with their dad and stopped talking to him. Alternately, his turn toward violence could’ve happened earlier. Perhaps, faced with another painful separation after the dissolution of his obviously doomed remarriage, Nick decided he couldn’t take the difficulty of bicoastal divorce logistics and decided to kill the twins and Elizabeth in London and flee back to America. Yikes!
But what, you may ask, about Nick/Charlie’s beloved houses? Parker Knoll is similar to Foxglove—expensive estates with long driveways leading up to a brick exterior covered in vines and plenty of surrounding land—but they are clearly not the same property. So imagine this: Nick Parker sells his beloved home and winery after leaving (or murdering) his wife and daughters in London, hoping to get a fresh start. But he meets his new wife and takes a different tactic: He’ll buy a home nearby! That way, he can check up on his old home but still get another chance at a happy home. He changes his name to Charlie Peck to fly a little under the radar, and his new property is gorgeous but not quite as opulent as the first, as he has left the wine business to try his hand at the construction business. (You’ll notice in The Intruder that Charlie still appears to be knowledgeable about wine, noting when a bottle needs to breathe; he never truly gave up on his passion.) We never see any of the neighboring properties in The Intruder; perhaps Parker Knoll is close enough that Nick/Charlie could creep around both houses in the same night. Maybe he even had a tunnel connecting his secret lairs on both properties.
I don’t know. I don’t have all the details ironed out, I just know that The Parent Trap and The Intruder take place in the same cinematic universe.