I was ready to write off Family Switch. A body swapping scenario, but this time amongst the entire family? Wow, what an original premise. As we all know, body swap movies can be a ton of fun if executed well. Freaky Friday, 13 Going on 30, 17 Again, the new Jumanji; all these films worked because of the hilarious performances. The actors need to be able to play dual roles, one as their character, and the other as the body swapped self. I should have known that with Jennifer Garner in the cast, who has played a role like this before to perfection, things would turn out to be better than expected.
The Walker family aren’t in sync. Despite Bill (Ed Helms) and Jess Walker’s (Garner) attempts to get their children CC (Emma Myers) and Wyatt (Brady Noon) into a festive mood, their children seem zealous in their desire to get away from them. Wyatt is hoping for early admission to Yale despite being a freshman at high school, and CC’s going all out for a chance at a spot on the national soccer team. Jess, who used to be an athlete before an injury took her out of the game, doesn’t want CC to do the same in case the same thing happens to her. But CC feels that she’s her own person, and it’s not fair of her mom to assume that her struggles would be CC’s. And Wyatt constantly rebuffs his dad’s attempts at connection, perceiving him to be unworthy of notice given his mediocre intelligence.
There’s a clear disconnect between parent and child, and after an encounter with the mysteriously mischievous Angelica (Rita Moreno), the family wake up to find themselves swapped. Even the youngest has swapped bodies with their dog Pickles. Since it’s an important day for most of them, they have no choice but to trust that their body swapped partner to get them through the day. Given the Freaky Friday formula, I actually expected something similar to pan out in Family Switch. But the movie surprisingly does not go down that route. There’s quite a fair bit of failure, and while some of these scenes are kinda cringey, like CC’s fart fest as Jess, others are kind of funny. Watching Noon try to channel Helms’ energy is really hilarious stuff – it’s also amazing to see how cool a leather jacket and some straight hair can make you.
Garner has really mastered the art of performing adolescence. She’s so effortlessly funny as CC, and wholeheartedly commits to every bit, no matter the level of cringe. As entertaining as it is to watch Bill and Wyatt, it is Jess’ relationship with CC that’s the heart of this film. Both mother and daughter underestimate each other, and it is only by walking in each other’s shoes that they see how wrong their perceptions have been. Myers is such a talented young actress, and fleshes out whichever character she inhabits, be it Jess or CC.
And of course, it can’t be a holiday movie without song and dance. Lucky for us, this film has both. It’s so nostalgic to see Garner strut her stuff on the dance floor again, such a throwback to 13 Going on 30, and the film actually gives us a pretty decent rendition of “Santa Claus is Coming to Town”.
Does everything in this movie work? No, of course not. But there are plenty of laughs to be had. Even Matthias Schweighöfer’s minor role as neighbour Rolf made me laugh out loud. Family Switch isn’t quite as iconic as the movies that came before it, but a host of good performances gives it enough of a feel-good vibe.
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Family Switch isn't going to be that special holiday movie you put on every year, but it's fun enough to be enjoyed in the moment.
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