What is it about the late 1980s and body swap movies? I mean there aren’t shit loads but there are more than enough. Was everyone secretly worried about waking up as someone else for the last few years of the decade? Earlier this year for this very segment I reviewed the movie Big… I say reviewed but it was more of a detailed breakdown of how fucking creepy that film is. SHE HAS SEX WITH A CHILD! AND SHE’S WEIRDLY OKAY WITH IT! But I’ve already vented my frustrations on that earlier post so feel free to go and check it out. I have to say, though, my many viewings of Big over the years has really had an effect on my liking of these films. It’s given everything a seedy undertone. So, I went into this sort of mixture of Freaky Friday and Big with a huge amount of trepidation. Especially considering the only time I’ve really heard it mentioned was in that episode of Community when Abed throws the DVD away. It didn’t bode well.
Although, I have to say that whilst it may be as good a film overall as Big, Vice Versa manages to be slightly lower on the creep scale. The film shows us the consequences of a stuffy executive at a department store (Judge Reinhold) swaps places with his young son (Fred Savage). As expected in these narratives, dad, Marshall takes the son, Charlie’s, place at school and vice versa. They also have to find out what the mysterious gold skull smuggled in from Thailand has to do with the whole thing. Oh, and fend off the violent art thieves who want the skull back. Fairly standard behaviour.
It’s not really as interesting a film as Big or Freaky Friday simply because it doesn’t really add anything new. Well, except the art thieves but that really just takes time away from the main point of the story. The writers obviously thought they needed more drama or tension but it simply doesn’t have enough time to work. There are just too many stops along the way when the film would have been better giving the main pair more time together. These films need to be more focused on the schmaltz than the excitement. We just want to see an adult actor pretending to be a kid and a child actor pretending to be an adult. Then we want to see them realise how much they love each other and, eventually, resolve the situation. There’s really no time for chasing bad guys.
But, all in all, Vice Versa isn’t a terrible film. Both Savage and Reinhold do convincing enough jobs as people trapped in the wrong bodies. There are even some amusing moments and there is a fair amount of sentiment towards the end. The problem is, it’s not a good film either. There are plenty of similar premises that are just done better. As much as Big makes me cringe, I have to admit that Tom Hanks does a better job than anyone could hope for as a young boy trapped inside an adult body. Which means that anybody else trying it just looks a tad shit and a little embarrassing. Reinhold’s performance isn’t the worst but it just seems so broad and generic. In the case of neither father nor son, the before- and post-switch characters fail to have much of a resemblance to each other.
However, as I mentioned at the start of this review, there is one area in which Vice Versa is a better film than Big. And that is simple. Instead of creating a situation in which a young boy has sex with an unsuspecting adult female, Vice Versa only allows its young protagonist the chance to get to first base with an unsuspecting adult female. Okay, it’s his father’s girlfriend, which is a bit creepy. And, after the deed is done, his father says in a super creepy way “first kiss, huh?” but it’s slightly better. I think. Oh god, my moral compass is all over the place thanks to these fucking films. What have I become?