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The Best & Worst of Body Swapping Comedies

August 2, 2011

With “The Change-Up” just days away from its release, taking the familiar body swap premiese but given it the modern R-Rated comedy twist, I’d like to take the time to look back on the body swapping genre, the good & the bad. It seems like the popular era of these movies were in the 80’s, why? It seems like everyone was trying to one up another, who can make the better and funnier movie? Only a few got it right. Will “The Change-Up” repeat history? Will we see more body changing comedies in the future? Lets hope we can just settle with “The Change-Up” and hopefully it will make us laugh with the talents of Jason Bateman & Ryan Reynolds.

The Bad

“Life Father Like Son”  – You think pairing Dudley Moore with 80’s teen heart throb Kirk Cameron could rank in the dough, but no, it didn’t. It was a dumb, pointless, half-assed comedy where you guessed, the overworked father switches bodies with his sad-sap son. And the (non)hilarity ensues from there. If only.

“18 Again!” – George Burns plays groovy grandpa in this boring comedy. After being put into coma, teenage grandson David (Charlie Schlatter) and his swinging grandfather get their souls swapped. While the grandfather’s body is still in coma, he enjoys having a young body again and repairs some facts in David’s life, who he finds not to be self-confident enough. Probably the most awkward of the body switching comedies and the most boring. I was never a fan of George Burns to begin with, everything he’s in he’s just doing the same old George Burns thing, so this movie really never did it for me, and it didn’t do much for the critics.

“The Hot Chick” – Who in their right mind thought it was smart to have someone switch bodies with Rob Schneider??? Oh right, his buddy Adam Sandler. Cliched off the ying-yang with been there done that plot points, motives, characters, and stupid raunchy humor. Just as awkward if not more so than “18 Again!”.

The Good

“Dream A Little Dream” – While it stars the classic 80’s teen duo of Corey Feldman & Corey Haim, this film takes the body switching comedy with a different approach, using the aspect of dreams, and the mental communication through dreamscapes. Old man Coleman (Jason Robards) is working on an experiment which will help him move into a place where Dreams are reality, but something goes wrong and he’s sent into Bobby’s body. But the catch is, he can communicate with Bobby in the dream state. I have to give credit for the movie trying to move away from the similar body switching movies and giving it a fresh perspective. But, it tends to fall into the trap of cheeky Corey/Corey-isms. With different casting choices, mainly for the teen roles, this could’ve been a great film.

“Vice Versa” – Similar as “Like Father Like Son” in many ways, however you can’t truely hate this movie because Fred Savage & Judge Reinhold have such great chemistry. When Judge acts like Fred it’s priceless and when Fred acts like Judge, it’s odd, but still amusing. Their switch is caused by a magic skull-like artifact that some silly goons are after. It’s all in good fun, and the performances are really amusing.

“Freaky Friday” (2003) – In this Disney remake to the 1976 film, Lindsay Lohan & Jamie Lee Curtis take the roles of mom & daughter switching bodies and having one hell of a freaky Friday. While remaking the original Barbara Harris/Jodie Foster, seems redundent, I can’t help but say I liked it, much for the same reasons I liked “Vice Versa”, the performances were really amusing, especially coming from Jamie Lee Curtis, which earned her a Golden Globe nomination for Best Actress in Comedy/Musical.

The Great

“Big” – The late 80’s seemed to be chalk full of body-swapping comedies, but only one stood out as the best of the best. This Oscar nominated film that seemed to really boost the acting career of Tom Hanks is sweet, sentimentally, and very funny. “Big” was scripted by Anne Spielberg & Gary Ross, with the terrific direction by Penny Marshall, this is a movie that seemed to hit all the right notes, especially with its casting choice of Tom Hanks. While techincally the film isn’t a body switching comedy, our young Josh (David Moscow) transforms into what could be his older self, but is still the same old kid at heart. Hanks brings a special innocents to a young man trapped in an adults body, that one can only call memorable.

“Face/Off” – Bizarre isn’t the correct word to describe the plot of this John Woo action film, but I’ll settle for that for now. An FBI agent (John Travolta) trades faces with a comatose psychotic terrorist (Nicolas Cage) who’s brother knows the location of a nuclear bomb in L.A. Once Cage’s bad guy wakes up, he does the only thing he can do, take Travolta’s face. It’s so cool seeing these guys play one another. You know the classic Cage-isms and seeing Travolta bring that out in his performance will leave a goofy smile on your face. Plenty of awesome action, stunts, and wild chases, this is a classic action pic that everyone seems to get a kick out of, and probably one of John Woo’s better films. 

“Being John Malkovich” – Spike Jonze’s dark dramedy takes the body switching comedy to a whole new level, by having many people take over one body…John Malkovich’s body to be more precised. A puppeteer (John Cusack) discovers a portal that leads literally into the head of the movie star, John Malkovich. After this discovery by he and a few others, the power seems to be abused and could be tearing up the life of Mr. Malkovich. Smartly written, corky characters, makes this movie a great viewing. This is the film that made Spike Jonze is a true artist.

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Expect an early review on “The Change-Up” this week!

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