I love me a body swap movie.
Three movie trailer moments have invoked guttural responses from me, leading to self-realizations the likes of which have impacted my entertainment consumption permanently. After the Shine A Light trailer, I broke into spontaneous applause (a little embarrassing because nobody joined) and realized that if a rock star doesn’t at least attempt to move like Jagger, I’m not impressed. Then, when Robert Downey Jr. busted out of his rocky prison cell in the Iron Man trailer to Black Sabbath; my heart literally skipped a beat and I vowed to never again deny the power of a good old fashioned, win-one-for-the-little-guy, superhero movie.
And, finally, The Change-Up trailer from last summer. When, while drunkenly peeing into a fountain together, Ryan Reynolds and Jason Bateman locked eyes and said, “I wish I had your life,” followed by a strike of ominous lightning; I shot straight up in my seat, suddenly giddy with anticipation. I knew it before they even had to say it. I would never be the same again.
It’d been staring me in the face all along: The greatest plot device of all time is the classic body-switcheroo. What is not to love about a body swap movie? The ridiculous magic that leads to their transformation. The care-free montage when a kid realizes they are now in possession of an adult’s credit card. Rob Schneider. And, of course, the loved ones who are none-the-wiser. I’m lookin’ at you, wife in Face/Off who didn’t notice her husband suddenly had a completely different body. I’d like to think I’d notice if my husband’s face was stitched on to Nicolas Cage’s frame – but maybe not! Maybe I wouldn’t! That’s the fun of these movies; you just don’t know for sure, now, do you?! That’s what we’re exploring here.
Everyone loves an awkward situation. Lucille Ball, Balki Bartokomous and Larry Appleton built careers on that very idea. Body swap movies take those deer-in-the-headlights situations and blow. them. out. When I was just a mini-Mary, I watched the 1994 remake of The Shaggy Dog. It became my first experience with the awesome cringe-inducing power of the ol’ body-shuffle. Watching a self-conscious teenage boy in the shape of a dog try to keep his cool around the girl he had a crush on almost made my head explode. Watching Susan fall in love with an 8-year-old boy in Big? Well, that was awkward! Although, you know, I think most of us suspect we may have, at one time or another, been on a date with an 8-year-old boy in a magical, grown-man body.
But 17 Again takes the cake. I watched it for the first time a few years ago while I was home sick with the swine flu. When the daughter tried to make out with Zac Efron, who she didn’t know to be her actual father, my body overcame the swine with superhuman strength so that I could direct a primal scream at my television. Lord help my therapist if my father ever morphs into Zac Efron unbeknownst to me.
I’m counting dramatic age-change movies as part of the body swap genre because if I woke up tomorrow as mini-Mary, I think I’d call it a body swap, right? I mean, who knows, that’s what we’re exploring here!
Then there is the aesthetic joy of watching actors take on completely different mannerisms. William Shatner took this game to a whole new level on Star Trek with his hilariously sexist portrayal of a woman in the captain’s body.* Oh Willy! This is most fun to watch when a TV series has an episode in which the characters swap bodies. Those actors have spent a crazy amount of personal time together, studying, admiring and probably annoying each other. For them, I imagine the mannerisms they bring to their body-swap performances come from a place of adoration for their colleagues and maybe just a little bit from a place of revenge, too. This has been done on many shows, from Buffy The Vampire Slayer to Two Guys a Girl And A Pizza Place, and I always sit back, marveling, “oh man! That must have been a fun day on set!” (Insert roommate eye-roll here)
Then, of course, there is the life lesson. In my opinion, in order to be truly happy, you have to stop comparing yourself to other people. Most of the time, in some way or another, this is the message the body swap device reinforces for me. Sure, “the grass is always greener,” but taking the time to empathize with the complications that come with the greenness of that other side’s grass? That makes the world a much warmer place indeed.
If you’re looking for a quick fix, It’s A Boy Girl Thing is currently streaming on Netflix Instant. You’re welcome.
As a lover of ridiculous movies, ones I can laugh at and ones I can laugh with, I look forward to hearing – what are your favorite body swap moments?
*Special thanks to my sister for her encyclopedic knowledge of Star Trek episodes. That clip is a gem!
Image viaTrailer Addict