If you’ve seen one body-switching movie, you’ve seen them all, right? Well, that’s not necessarily the case, for there are a couple of unique exceptions to the rule (as discussed below). However, most of these movies are quite alike and generally have to do with the aftermath of some mystical process gone terribly wrong. These films are often comedic in tone but would also hope to communicate some philosophical message about identity, yet they mostly succeed in wallowing in their own poorly scripted, slapstick-laden juices. While the so-called “Golden Age” of the body-switching movie reached a fever pitch in the mid-to-late 1980s, studios still can’t resist popping them out on occasion to earn a quick buck. This weekend’s The Change-Up is merely the latest edition, so let’s just have a quick review of the body-switching movie, shall we?
Turnabout (1940): Here, we witness arguing married couple who pissed off a statue of Buddha. The wife, of course, is pregnant, and the requisite identity swap was rather hilarious and, at that time, a cinematic novelty.
All Of Me (1984): Lily Tomlin plays an aging millionaire who seeks the aid of a Tibetan master of meditation, who unfortunately screws up and transfers her soul into the body of an asshole lawyer played by Steve Martin. Then, both souls go to war within Martin’s body, and he shines in a wonderful display of physical comedy.
Like Father Like Son (1987): Dudley Moore and Kirk Cameron star as a too-busy father and his frustrated teenage son. For some unknown reason, one of them imbibes a brain-exchanging serum, which leads to Dad rocking out and Son attempting to take on Dad’s professional duties. In the end, they fix the brain situation and get all mushy in an overwrought display of sentimentality and mutual understanding. Thanks to my (now unequivocally dead) Kirk Cameron crush, I actually watched this in the theater on opening day. Shut the hell up.
Big (1988): Charming ruffian Tom Hanks plays the young boy in a grown-up’s body, who ended up in this strange predicament due to a bedtime wish. In the aftermath, he finds work in a toy store and gets a girlfriend but struggles with the dilemma of whether he should reverse his wish or stay in his new world.
18 Again (1988): This one was a purely accidental swap of the bodies when an aging businessman (George Burns) makes a birthday wish to be young again and subsequently ends up in a car accident only wake up in the body of his grandson (Charlie Schlatter). Truths unfold, but this one is pretty forgettable.
Vice Versa (1988): Now we’re talking in terms of the truly ridiculous, mates. Judge Reinhold plays a divorced father who ends up wishing for youth at the same time that his son wishes to be a grown up. The magic here comes from a decorative yet mystical skull, which just so happens to be the target of smugglers that are in hot pursuit! Also, that skateboard.
Prelude to a Kiss (1992): Back before Meg Ryan fucked up her cute little face, she played a somewhat reluctant bride who marries Alec Baldwin. Unfortunately, an old man approaches her at the marriage ceremony and kisses the bride, thereby working some body-switching mojo. This is exactly the sort of thing that could ruin any honeymoon.
Dating the Enemy (1996): Guy Pearce would probably like to forget this one (along with a few of his other movies too). Pearce plays a television host who ends up swapping bodies with his scientist girlfriend, which is a bad enough situation already, but the couple was on the cusp of a breakup. Chaos ensues.
Face/Off (1997): Crazy ol’ Nic Cage partners up with crazy ol’ John Travolta in this movie where the title truly tells us all we need to know. Hell if I understood what the hell was truly going on here, but I seem to recall a cop chasing his son’s killer. Then, cop beats up the killer and undergoes a revolutionary face-transplant procedure just so that he can trick the killer’s brother into helping him locate a bomb, which was previously planted by the killer to destroy the city of Los Angeles. Right.
Being John Malkovich (1999): On previous occasions, I’ve already talked way too much about this movie. In a bizarre little nutshell, this is the story of a portal leading into the vessel of John Horatio Malkovich for a requisite 15 minutes of fame. The experience tempts the film’s protagonist into doing horrible things in violation of Malkovich and, out of all of the body-switch movies on this list, comes closest to a metaphysical meditation upon what it means to become someone else. It’s also a ride that’s funny as hell. As an aside, Malkovich really was great in that jewel thief movie.
17 Again (2009): Zac Efron plays a big-shot, high-school basketball player who impregnates his girlfriend. He then wakes up twenty years later looking like Matthew Perry. Then, a strange janitor weaves a spell and turns Perry into Efron again, so that he can fix his marriage with Leslie Mann. In related news, alcohol is one hell of a drug.
The Change-Up (2011): Opening this weekend! Watch irresponsible bachelor Mitch (Ryan Reynolds) and lawyer/family man Dave (Jason Bateman) pee into a statue’s wishing pond at the same time and magically switch lives! Also starring Leslie Mann — shouldn’t she know better by now?
Agent Bedhead lives in Tulsa, Oklahoma. She and her little black heart can be found at Celebitchy.