It was arguably Freaky Friday that kicked off the idea of the body swap comedy as we know it today, although Tom Hanks in Big is inevitably often cited as the poster child of the genre. But, as Zac Efron makes his leap into the genre, here are ten films when a swap of age and/or body is expected to be a roadmap to comedy gold…
In the land of the age and body swap comedy, you simply have to start here, even if two of the films that we’re going to cover came out before it. Tom Hanks picked up an Oscar nomination for his career-turning role as Josh Baskin, who – thanks to a Zoltar machine – finds himself turned from a small boy into an adult overnight. The film gives itself space to enjoy the set-up too, with the now-inevitable romances, the Chopsticks piano scene, and the apartment full of toys he manages to get for himself. It gets a little mawkish, of course, but Big is still one fine comedy. There’s a young Jon Lovitz in it too, incidentally…
This was one of the spate of films that came out around the same time as Big, and if history had turned out differently, it could have been Judge Reinhold who got the Oscar nomination and the massive movie star career (er, maybe). Sadly, he got the Vice Versa script rather than the Big one, though, and while his film came out three months before Hanks’, it suffered from being, well, not too hot. This time it’s an oriental skull that switches Reinhold with his father and – yes! – vice versa. And while it gets bonus marks for including Fred Savage, and while we do like the Judge, Vice Versa‘s at best a middling film. If you’re in a good mood.
Like Father, Like Son
This one came out the year before Big, but was fairly quickly, and quite rightly, forgotten about. A shame, as it stars Dudley Moore as a straight-laced doctor, and thanks to a strange potion, he ends up swapping places with his son, played by Kirk Cameron (who was riding high in the show Growing Pains at the time). Hidden in the cast you’ll also find Sean Astin and an uncredited Bonnie Bedelia (better known as Holly Gennaro/McClane). Hidden in the script you might find a few better jokes, but sadly, the end result never really ignited the screen. If you’re looking for an underappreciated Dudley Moore comedy, dig out 1990’s Crazy People instead.
Freaky Friday (x3)
It’s been brought to the screen three times now, but Freaky Friday is the one that pre-dated them all. Based on the book by Mary Rodgers, it first hit the big screen in 1976, starring Barbara Harris and Jodie Foster, and then there was a 1995 television movie with Shelley Long and Gaby Hoffman. More recently, in 2003, Jamie Lee Curtis and Lindsay Lohan turned it into a hit too. The concept is the same for all three versions, with a mother and daughter swapping bodies. The 1976 version is probably the best, although we do have a soft spot for the more recent take on it, too…
We’ve – and it’s no offence to the fella – little urge to sit through a Zac Efron movie, but it’s interesting that he’s decided to tackle the body swap genre for his first standalone leading role. The reviews have been good, too, although given that the film’s been directed by Burr Steers – who made the outstanding Igby Goes Down – perhaps that’s not quite as unexpected as you might think. The concept here is that 37-year old adult Mike O’Donnell – played by Matthew Perry – turns back into his 17-year-old self (so, to be fair, it only just squeezes into the clothing of the genre. Just). He gets to befriend his own kids and stuff, and we suspect he makes the usual realisations about himself. That said, we’ve not seen the movie, so can’t really comment too much further. It’ll give a fair indication of just how much box office power Mr Efron has right now, though…
13 Going On 30
Aw, you can’t help but have a soft spot for this one. Jennifer Garner’s character starts off as a 13-year-old girl who snubs the 13-year-old version of Mark Ruffallo. Cue a dose of movie magic dust, and she awakes to find herself in the body of Jennifer Garner. After a quick fiddle with her bristols and about 10 minutes walking around in her nightie, she heads off to work for a magazine company, and she discovers she’s – shock horror! – turned into a nasty woman! You can pretty much predict it from there, but nonetheless, it still holds together quite well. At no point does she play Chopsticks on a big in-store floor piano, though.
All Of Me
If we had to pick one body swap comedy to take off to a desert island, then the sublime teaming of Steve Martin and Lily Tomlin would surely be the DVD we’d be reaching for. If anyone ever doubts the comedy genius of Martin, All Of Me proves that not only is he very, very funny, but he’s a terrific actor too, as dying millionaire Lily Tomlin finds herself swapped into her lawyer’s body (that’s Martin), but with her lawyer still stuck in there too. Co-starring Martin’s now ex-wife, Victoria Tennant, the movie also features cinema’s finest comedy scene of a man flushing a toilet whenever someone knocks on the door. Five star genius.
Blake Edwards’ best days were behind him when he wrote and directed this 1991 comedy, although his cinematic comedy CV is still far more impressive than mine. It does have a strong performance from Ellen Barkin though, She ends up playing a male chauvinist who’s murdered and brought back in a woman’s body. The cast also features Jimmy Smits, Lorraine Bracco (a year after Goodfellas, a year before the terrible Medicine Man) and early turns from Catherine Keener and Tea Leoni. But there’s not too much to enjoy here.
The Hot Chick
Oh dear. Rob Schneider – who co-wrote – stars in the title role here, but it’s not one of his best. The concept is that a mean and not-unattractive teenage girl has to mend the errors of her ways by spending time in the body of Rob Schneider’s 30-something loser. You’ll find Anna Faris and Rachel McAdams on the cast list, but Schneider – despite his best efforts – struggles to generate too many laughs here.
It’s A Boy Girl Thing
A passable enough British comedy, as the jock guy and the nerdy girl who can’t stand each other end up swapping bodies. You can guess the rest from here, and engrave all of the film’s original ideas on the back of a peanut, but Kevin Zegers and Samaire Armstrong put in good turns as the body-swappers, and there’s a few chuckles in there, too. Sharon Osbourne pops up in this one, bizarrely.
See also: Dream A Little Dream