August 5, 2011

MRQE Rewind: Body Swappin' Movies

This weekend, The Change-Up hits theaters, starring Jason Bateman and Ryan Reynolds, two very popular actors in recent years that tend to be confused with one another. So why not produce a movie that does the mixing up for you? The Change-Up is a classic body swap story. Bateman plays a husband & father who, after urinating in a magical fountain, switches bodies with his best friend (Reynolds), a single ladies' man. Let the hilarity ensue as Bateman experiences the promiscuous lifestyle he missed out on before marriage. And Reynolds’s selfish bachelor learns a thing or two about commitment and responsibility. The storyline seems absurdly simple, and for good reason. This is a bankable premise for a summer comedy, with major cross-demographic appeal (I minored in Marketing; I know some jargon.) Without further ado, MRQE presents the most memorable body swaps at the movies, from rappers to comics to Disney characters.

Class Act (1992) -- MRQE Metric: n/a

We kick it off with Kid 'N' Play, the rap duo best remembered for the House Party series from the early 90s. But Class Act was a personal favorite of mine during their heyday. The Chris' (Reid and Martin) are students in high school. Reid (Kid) is a straight "A" science whiz, while Martin (Reid) is a tough juvenile delinquent. When their school records are inadvertently switched, they experience the classroom in a whole new way. And, after experiencing the perks of their new roles, they agree to keep up the "Act" in front of the class. No literal "body swap" in this one, but I bend the rules for Kid 'N' Play. Plus, kudos to a climactic chase sequence in a wax museum. Original!

Vice Versa (1988) -- MRQE Metric: n/a

Fred Savage ruled the 1980s. The Princess Bride, The Wizard, Little Monsters, and our next entry, Vice Versa, a 1988 body swap comedy in which he co-starred with Judge Reinhold. Reinhold plays a divorced dad who returns home to his son (Savage) after a trip abroad, with a mysterious skull in tow. The skull holds mystical powers and switches the father into the son's body and VICE VERSA, LOL! To add to the mayhem, two hunters chase Reinhold for the prized skull! Vice Versa offers a fairly predictable premise, but, surprisingly, the film (and arguably the original “body swap” idea) was adapted from a British novel originally published in 1882! Gotta love the 80s! Whichever century!

Freaky Friday (2003) -- MRQE Metric: 70

Another literary adaptation (and another attempt at alliteration ;-) ) is Freaky Friday, taken from the bestselling children's book by Mary Rodgers. Two versions have been produced: one in 1976 starring Barbary Harris and a young Jodie Foster, and another in 2003 starring Jamie Lee Curtis and media darling Lindsay Lohan. Both are energetic stories with convincing performances, but I will recommend the latter in honor of the once-talented Miss Lohan, who, today, seems incapable of standing let alone acting.

Face/Off (1997) -- MRQE Metric: 75

Let the bullets fly and the white pigeon’s soar! Momentarily we step away from the family friendly mold and move into John Woo territory. Not many can match the shoot ‘em up style of Woo’s action movies. Face/Off was Woo’s second collaboration with John Travolta (Broken Arrow) and his first with Nicolas Cage. Travolta plays a secret agent who undergoes a dangerous facial transplant to assume the identity of a wanted murderer (Cage). The undercover operation backfires when Cage has the same operation. He assumes Travolta's identity and eventually takes the agent's family hostage. Epic fight scenes make Face/Off a thrilling ride; and, Travolta and Cage are in rare-quality 90s form.

The Man in the Iron Mask (1998) -- MRQE Metric: 56

Next, a story taken from the back corridors of history. The Man in the Iron Mask is adapted from a novel by Alexander Dumas. It tells of Louis XIV's rumored twin brother, who was masked and held prisoner during Louis' reign, to prevent a challenge to the throne. Leonardo Dicaprio (and Leonardo Dicaprio) starred as the two brothers in the 1998 action drama, written and directed by Randall Wallace (Braveheart). The film was a modest success upon release, but was overshadowed. Not even Dumas' Three Musketeers could out-gross Leo's other release of that year: Titanic.

The Prince and the Pauper (1990) -- MRQE Metric: n/a

Mark Twain's classic story of a young Edward VI who switches places with an impoverished boy in 16th century England was a staple of my childhood. And for my money--among the many film adaptations--I choose the Disney animated version from 1990. It stars none other than Mickey Mouse in dual roles. Goofy and Donald are in the mix as well. It's a surprisingly thrilling film! And a small aside: Wayne Allwine voiced Mickey in The Prince and the Pauper, one of only three people to have voiced the famous mouse until Allwine's death in 2009.

Like Father Like Son (1987) -- MRQE Metric: n/a

The characters commonly used in body swap storylines are family members. It can be siblings, parents or grandparents mixing it up for the sake of a *hyuk*! That’s the case with our next entry, Like Father Like Son. Released in 1987 (a popular year for the swap comedy), the movie stars comedy legend Dudley Moore and Growing Pains star Kirk Cameron as the father-son tandem that switches places, this time by way of a magical potion. Despite poor reviews, Like Father Like Son provides some genuine entertainment. Especially the hospital scenes with Dudley Moore. Also, look for a very young Sean Astin in a supporting role.

Trading Places (1983) -- MRQE Metric: 78

Trading Places is the most successful film on our list, both commercially and critically. The 1983 comedy classic stars Eddie Murphy and Dan Aykroyd as a street hustler and businessman respectively. When two rich and powerful men (The Dukes) decide to conduct a social experiment, they use Murphy and Aykroyd as the guinea pigs, switching Aykroyd and Murphy's roles in society and observing how the two men respond. The movie is hilarious and very keen in its storytelling. This swap has surprising depth. And Jamie Lee Curtis isn't too bad, either.

Prelude to a Kiss (1992) -- MRQE Metric: n/a

Alec Baldwin and Meg Ryan star in this peculiar body swap romance from 1992. Prelude to a Kiss was adapted for the screen by Craig Lucas, who also wrote the original stage play. There are no zany gags or flying bullets here, no outrageous laughs or perilous scenarios. This body swap is subtle and a little peculiar; much like the Duke Ellington track from which the title derives. On the day of their wedding, a mysterious old man visits Peter (Baldwin) and Rita (Ryan). After the ceremony, he asks for, and is granted, a kiss from the bride. On their honeymoon, the husband realizes his wife is acting strange. Rita and the old man have switched souls! What follows are a selection of lengthy exchanges on the meaning of love and life itself! Not the lightest fare, but intriguing nonetheless.

18 Again! (1988) -- MRQE Metric: n/a

18 Again! was produced in 1988. And it starred a 92-year old George Burns as 81-year old grandfather Jack Watson. That alone is an incredible feat: to play an 11-year age gap at 92 years old and pull it off with pizzazz was a quintessential maneuver by Burns in the twilight of his career. 18 Again!, loosely based on a song Burns would perform in his stand-up act, is a classic body swap story. After a car accident puts his older self in a coma, Burns finds himself alive and well in the body of his 18-year old grandson. Of course the ideal life of a teenager is not always what it seems. Burns quickly learns of the hardships of youth that he chose to gloss over in his old age. To be 18 again, after all, is bittersweet.

Trailer provided by Video Detective


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