Making The Change Up: 6 Body Switching Movies

Tuesday, January 31 by John Coon

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One character swapping bodies with another character is a commonly used plot device in several Hollywood comedies. The blueprint for these comedies is virtually identical. The two characters are polar opposites and only gain a better understanding of one another after they switch bodies through mystical means and live the other person's life for a while. If there were a book on writing generic screenplays, a body swap comedy would be in the first chapter. But just because it's generic doesn't mean it can't be fun. In fact, some of the best loved comedies in Hollywood have used it to great effect!

1. “Freaky Friday” (1976/2003)

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There are two versions to choose from here. You can watch the 1976 version starring Jodie Foster or opt for the 2003 remake Lindsay Lohan. The basic premise is the same: a mother and daughter magically switch bodies after wishing to change places following a heated argument about which one has a harder life. Both versions are among the better entries in this sub-genre. The old "grown-up in a kids' body" thing seems to have more legs than other types of swap comedies. That, and Jamie Lee Curtis still looks damn good for fifty or so.

2. “Being John Malkovich” (1999)

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This movie was just…weird. Few movies are stranger than this take on the body swap concept. John Cusack plays an out-of-work puppeteer who discovers a portal into the mind of actor John Malkovich. That's a pretty normal occurrence, right? Cusack and his friends soon use Malkovich's body as a vehicle to act out all sorts of desires. The movie is disturbing on many levels, and it raises all sorts of philosophical and moral dilemmas.

3. “18 Again!” (1988)

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George Burns tackles his last major movie role as an 81-year-old man who falls into a coma and has his soul magically transported into the body of his 18-year-old grandson. In this new situation, he gets a second chance at being a teenager. Burns is one of the great comedic actors of our time. Too bad his screen presence is limited here. Ol' Burnsy had to wish that his alter work was a little stronger, because this movie is the definition of "middling." Still, anything with the comedy legend in it is worth a peek.

4. “Vice Versa” (1988)

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Judge Reinhold is hilarious as a father who switches places with his son through the influence of a mysterious voodoo skull. Reinhold stood out in so many memorable 80s comedies like "Beverly Hills Cop" and "Ruthless People" before his career faded. He brings enough over-the-top slapstick humor to "Vice Versa" to make it a fun movie. Fred Savage, precocious as ever, more than carries his weight when he gets an infusion of his uptight dad's soul, leading to some great scenes between the two. It's no wonder this movie is slated for a remake!

5. “The Hot Chick” (2002)

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Rob Schneider is an…acquired taste, much in the same way that eating bugs is an acquired taste. Sadly, that's a pretty apt comparison when it comes to his starring roles. The only redeeming thing about this movie is that it introduces the world to the lovely Rachel McAdams. Sure, the movie has its share of goofy one-liners, but a thin premise is stretched beyond the breaking point here. Although for fans of the "Happy Madison" production studio, “The Hot Chick” is produced by Adam Sandler and features a hefty dose of crude humor.

6. “All of Me” (1984)

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This Steve Martin comedy features a nice twist on the body swapping theme. Martin plays a man who fights for control of his body with the soul of a dead millionaire, played by Lily Tomlin, who is trapped inside. It is a showcase for Martin's comedic talents and sets the standard for how body swap comedies should be executed. Martin can do physical humor, as well as nuanced sarcasm, so his full range of talents are on display in this criminally underrate comedy. Check this one out if you're looking for something a little different.