I love a lot of things openly that people will not even admit to loving privately. That being said, I love and will watch with fascination most anything in the ‘body switch’ theme or genre. Keep in mind, I rarely think that it is done right. However, this will not stop me in any way from watching them. There are a few tenants to this genre we will explore.
Parents Switch Bodies With Teens – Generally, the lesson of these movies is pretty well spelled out in the end. The teen learns the value of hard work and how much goes into the lifestyle which their parents provide them. The parent, in turn, learns that being young is not all it is cracked up to be. It is like the end of an 80’s sitcom when some one says “And we all learned a valuable lesson.” Good examples of these types of movies include Like Father, Like Son and Freaky Friday. Unfortunately, the message of the movie was completely lost on the generation of people growing up (namely the teens) that were watching them. The message was supposed to be “Work hard. Set down roots. Earn a good living. Just don’t forget sometimes to take a minute and smell the roses. You know, enjoy the fruits of all of your hard earned success.” The message that latch key kids with all of the moral fiber of twine received? Being an adult is stupid. Put down roots? I am not even going to set out a potted plant in the sun. In order to show Dudley Moore being ridiculous, they put a grown man in a baseball cap. The message was supposed to be “Look how childish this grown man is wearing a baseball cap like a twelve year old.” What did grown men see this and start doing? They wore baseball caps. The let their shirts out. With out any shame, you have an entire generation that call themselves ‘gamers.’ The whole “Worked hard to get to a place where you can enjoy life” was lost. That had way too many syllables for people raised on MTV. The lesson became “Enjoy life.” Welcome to a world in which a first run Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle action figure is a Picasso.
Oh Look, I Have Breasts! These Are Fun! – The next trope of the body switch genre is a man becoming a woman or some one changing their sex through some divine means. The main issue is that 95 percent of the time, the entire idea is played for laughs. Either that, or it goes from funny to serious way too quickly. A good/ bad example ( however you want to look at it) is Blake Edwards’ Switch. Now, Blake Edwards was a true auteur with many great films to his credit. Switch was not one of them. Switch was an incredibly uneven film. The basic premise is that a man is murdered by three women which he wronged at some point and time. He is sent back to Earth to earn his way into Heaven by finding one woman who truly loves him. There is the opening funniness of using the bathroom, learning to walk in heels, as well as getting hit on in bars. There is the down right creepiness of attempting to solicit advice on being a woman from one of his / her murderers. The final resolution is drunken sex (as well as losing their female virginity) to best friend Jimmy Smits. In the next scene after an accused date rape, they are seemingly in love and have a baby together. The baby is a girl and she loves her mama. Comedy? Drama? Murder mystery? Switch has no idea what it was actually intended to be. Even more egregious is Dr. Jeckyll and Ms. Hyde which basically says that too much girl will make you a psychotic monster. My best recommendation on this one would be the greatly under seen as well as under appreciated Cleo/ Leo in which a truly lecherous jerk goes through the female experience only to not want to turn back into what he was. This is done throughout the movie by more hearing the female “Cleo” voice in the head than the male “Leo” voice until the “Leo” voice disappears altogether.
Wait, Is That Fur? – There is no real marker for experience of human beings becoming animals. However, there are some very good movies based on the idea. In addition to the excellent The Emperor’s New Groove, I would heartily suggest Oh Heavenly Dog. Some people might not think that there such a thing as “Chevy Chase at his finest.” I would disagree vociferously with that statement (but that is for another time). Chase stars as a Private Investigator named Browning who is killed during an investigation. Browning is re-incarnated as a dog named Benji and sets out to solve the crime of his own murder as well as his final case. It is surprisingly literate as well as a wonderful example of what Chase could have done with his career. If you truly must have a counter point to what much of Chase’s career was, then try and sit through Man of the House. Lets just say that The Shaggy Dog was a miss in Tim Allen’s otherwise laudable career and leave it at that. Keep in mind, I was actually a huge fan of the Fred MacMurray starring original Shaggy Dog as well as the original Shaggy DA.
A Really Honorable Mention – There are some teams that just worked well together. For my generation, the Two Coreys (Feldman and Haim) were magic. I also happen to think that they made some great movies together. The greatest of these movies in my opinion (and this is only barely edging out The Lost Boys ) would be Dream A Little Dream. This is kind of an honorable mention because it is never clearly spelled out whether Corey Feldman’s character and Jason Robard’s character have actually switched bodies or not. They do inhabit the same space kind of creepily. Whatever the magic or mysticism involved, Dream a Little Dream is certainly a magical film experience. Feldman’s speech about sitting on a couch one day and just realizing that people can not be very good is one for the ages. His speech is especially relevant in light of all of the actual shootings that have taken place. Just take a moment and realize that high school is simply something that has to be endured. Nothing more and nothing less. It really just makes me wish more teens today would watch Dream A Little Dream.