The life swapping genre is a path well trodden in box office movies and with another one released today in the form of 'Change Up', we take a look at some of the most notable films to grace the genre.
Watching TV the other night a trailer came on for a new movie called Change Up starring Jason Bateman and Ryan Reynolds. The premise of the movie is that two friends, one single and one married, wake one morning to find that they have somehow managed to swap bodies and therefore lives. It looked kind of forgettable but also made me think, ”Haven’t I seen this movie a thousand times before?”
The genre of the age swap/body swap movie (hereby known as AS/BSM’s) is far from new and has been executed with varying degrees of success over the years. For a kids and adults alike they are attractive movie going options as they offer something for all the family. The kid can revel in the possibilities for adventure, mischief and newfound power wielding that instant adulthood would afford them whilst the adult can get lost in nostalgic musings on past missed opportunities set right, the joy of irresponsibility or the chance to escape the drudge of their normal existence. It’s an almost surefire winner every time for a movie studio and I think that’s why it’s a theme that has been revisited over and over since a miniature Jodie Foster starred in the original Freaky Friday.
What struck me when I saw the ad for “Change Up” wasn’t just that I had seen this concept in action before, it was more that I had seen certain moments before, namely and most importantly what I call the “Realisation Scream”. I was fairly sure that this was standard practice in most AS/BSM’s but in order to prove my theory totally I had to undertake some YouTube research. I have studied the trailers of eight different AS/BSM’s, some are well known and some lesser so but all carry the same basic thematic qualities. In my finding’s I have looked into whether there is a “Realisation Scream” included in the trailer and how far in it takes place. I’ve also studied the “McGuffin” or the device that allows the AS/BS to take place alongside the life lesson that might or might not be learned by the characters involved in the swap.
These are my findings…
The trailer that set this ball rolling. Jason Bateman plays a new father who is envious of his friend Ryan Reynolds and the bachelor lifestyle he continues to lead. Women fling themselves at Reynolds whilst Batemen just gets baby shit squirted in his face. Having not seen the movie I can’t pass judgement on it yet. This is probably irrelevant anyway because by the end of this you will have a pretty good idea of where the plot in this film is headed.
My finding here are thus…
The “Realisation Scream” occurs one minute and thirty six seconds into the trailer.
The “McGuffin” is a piss activated magical wishing fountain.
The lessons I suspect will be learnt from this movie will be that the grass isn’t always greener on the other side. That a non-stop carnival of wild sex cannot compete with a secure and loving family. Yawn.
This first is a classic and I mean a real classic. People make special pilgrimages to the giant toy shop F.A.O Scharwtz (why the shop is for the attention of someone named Schwartz remains unclear) just to witness staff members recreate the famous “chopsticks” scene on their floor piano. This is way back when Tom Hanks was primarily a comedian, way back when the very idea of his winning an Oscar would be a laughable notion and winning the best actor Oscar two years in a row a work of deep fantasy.
My finding here are thus…
The “Realisation Scream” occurs 35 seconds into the trailer.
The “McGuffin” is a turbaned machine with jaw issues called Zoltar who grants his wish at a travelling fairground.
The main lessons learnt are that childhood is a precious thing that should be cherished and that it was astoundingly easy to climb the corporate ladder in 1980s New York.
13 Going On 30
The next is another age swap movie but technically it could also be considered a time travel film. Frankly who cares. The gist of it is that in 13 Going On 30 Jennifer Garner finds herself at 13 years old wishing she was 30 instead. Lo and behold the next morning she awakes to find herself at 30 years old with no recollection of the intervening years (funnily enough that’s quite similar to my life experience).
The “Realisation Scream” occurs only 15 seconds into the trailer.
The “McGuffin” is never truly explained though it has something to do with a cupboard and some glitter.
The moral of the story is that if you have a fat, geeky mate when you’re a kid, be nice to him as he will grow up to be some kind of hottie who’s like totally nice and buff and stuff.
Chandler from Friends is on a collision course with his 40th birthday, he’s divorced and his kids think he’s a dick. He reasons with himself that his life would be in a very different place if he had just scored the winning basket in some championship match 20 years before. Rather unconvincingly it emerges that as a youth Chandler from friends was Troy from High School Musical! Hilarity ensues when he finds himself 17 Again and at high school with his own children!
The “Realisation Scream” occurs 51 seconds into the trailer.
The “McGuffin” has Chandler throwing himself from a bridge and into some sort of age reversing wormhole in time and space.
From the trailer it can be deduced that basketball really can change your life and that if you look like Zac Efron your own daughter will want to sleep with you.
No this is not a hastily rushed out sequel to the previous movie. It looks like this is a body swap comedy but for some reason only seems to show one side of the swap story. George Burns stars as an 81 year man who wishes he were 18 again, wow 81 to 18, I like what they did there. Most of the trailer is given over to excerpts from reviews (a sure sign that the movie is incapable of selling itself). One of these reviews is from Jeffrey Lyons of Sneak Preview who comments on the movie’s young star, “ Charlie Schlatter is a real find” which is too bad as it appears he has been missing in action ever since. Dale Stevens from the Cincinnati Post fails in his journalistic duties using the excuse “I can’t write this review….I can’t stop laughing!”. If only he’d share the joke with the rest of us.
The “Realisation Scream” ….does not take place, already I feel uneasy.
The “McGuffin” seems to involve a spectacular car crash involving Burns and his grandson. Afterwards it seems that Burns has had his dream come true by occupying his 18 year old grandsons body (not in an illegal sense, at least I don’t think that was his intention). What isn’t made clear is what happens to the grandson. There are no chuckle inducing moments of a teenager finding himself in the saggy skin of his 81 year old grandfather and you’re left feeling that if his grandson were lucky enough to have survived that crash then he’s probably languishing, babbling incoherently, horribly injured in an old peoples ward somewhere.
NO moral lessons whatsoever seem to be on offer here. The grandfather has stolen his grandsons body, seemingly without regret, ostensibly to molest teenage girls.
Released the same year as Big , Vice Versa was always it poorer cousin despite the best efforts of Judge Reinhold and Fred Savage. I was always a fan though. Here they swap bodies or they morph into each other at least…whatever.
The “Realisation Scream” occurs 27 seconds into the trailer.
The “McGuffin” has Reinhold‘s character in possession of a magic skull that, quelle surprise, transforms his son into him and him into his son after an argument.
Morally it does the usual “You don’t appreciate how difficult and complicated being an adult is” with the “You don’t remember how tough it was being a kid” counter argument. It’s also worth noting that this film suggests that if this body swap happens one of the first things your son will do is check out your hairy, adult penis.
Like Father , Like Son
No, I had never heard of this one either and yet surprisingly it stars Dudley Moore. From the trailer it looks startlingly like Vice Versa insomuch as a father and son swap bodies, although here they refer to at as “Brain Transference”. It’s worth noting the majority of the 1980’s BS/ASM’s that I have studied were released in either ‘87 or ‘88 suggesting a real appetite for this kind of film then. Why this may be remains a mystery.
The “Realisation Scream” occurs 23 seconds into the trailer and is perhaps my favourite of all of them.
The “McGuffin” is not explained even for a single moment. It may have something to with a cat.
Morally it shows us nothing. Drinking and fucking seem to play a major role in this movie. Extra points go to Dudley Moore for punching a man whilst he is having a cardiac arrest.
Finally we arrive at our last movie, Freaky Friday. I’ve gone for the remake because the trailer is a little slicker and Disney audiences these days simply cannot cope with even the vaguest moral ambiguity in their films, so as a result it’s all pretty clear what is happening and why. Interestingly Lindsey Lohan plays the part previously played by Jodie Foster, both who have now gone on to become celebrity lesbians or celesbians.
The “Realisation Scream” occurs a hefty 1 minute and 8 seconds into the trailer!
The “McGuffin” takes the form of a couple of fortune cookies handed to Lohan and Lee Curtis by a mysterious lady at Chinese restaurant where they have gone to argue about mother daughter type things.
Morally it’s the same old thing as ever “Ooh it’s hard being an adult…blah,blah,blah” and “I hate being a kid, I want to be a grown-up”. The daughter has to go to work and the mother has to rock out on her daughters guitar at the inevitable “battle of the bands” finale. Frankly who cares? Not me anymore, that’s for certain.
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