We all recall the body swap movies of yore which seemed especially prominent in the 80’s- such as “18 Again”, “Like Father, Like Son”, “Dream a Little Dream”, and “Big”(which deviates from the standard formula in that Tom Hanks plays himself at a different age). All of those movies were released around the same time period of 1987-1989.
However, one that stands out most from my childhood is the Judge Reinhold – Fred Savage vehicle “Vice Versa” (1988). It tells the tale of Marshall Seymour (Reinhold), a harried executive of a Chicago department store who is too busy to make time for his girlfriend/co-worker, Sam (Corinne Bohrer), or his 11 year old son, Charlie (Savage). When Marshall and Sam travel to Thailand, a mysterious bejeweled skull accidentally ends up in Marshall’s possession.
Upon his return, his ex-wife, Robyn (Jane Kaczmarek) announces that she’s booked a vacation with her new husband, so is dumping Charlie on Marshall for a few days. Neither one is satisfied with this arrangement, which isn’t helped by the fact that the two have a strained relationship.
Things come to a head one morning when Marshall and Charlie get into an argument regarding each other’s lives and simultaneously wish to switch places, whilst both are holding onto the skull. What happens next terrified me for ages after watching it- Charlie, who struggles with being small for his age, begins growing rapidly right as Marshall literally shrinks down to Charlie’s level, all with spooky music and lighting only serving to intensify the creepiness of the transformations.
Now trapped in each other’s bodies, Marshall and Charlie need to cope with living the other’s life. Marshall realizes that school is tougher than he remembered, with school, bullies and hockey practice. Charlie is now “6′ 2 with the brain of an 11 year old” who has to cope with being the head of a department store, as well as trying not to screw things up with Sam for his dad’s sake. Adding to the complications, crooks Tina (Swoosie Kurtz) and Turk (David Proval) are on the prowl for the skull, and will go to sinister lengths to reclaim it…
While “Vice Versa” won’t be as memorable or recognized as the best 80’s flick of all time, but it’s full of laugh out loud moments. Savage is more convincing as the reasonable adult into his son’s body than the flighty kid, similar to his “Wonder Years” character. Reinhold has fun has the kid inside the adult’s body, particularly in the scene where he gets back at the bullies who tormented him, or when he’s dancing to “Mony Mony” after the swap.
I rate “Vice Versa” a total of four out of five stars, as it contains decent performances. I’d recommend this movie to kids of 12 and older. However, this flick contains swearing, with the majority of it coming from Marshall as Charlie, who additionally indulges his woes in cocktails in quite a few scenes. Nevertheless, it still manages to come across as an enjoyable flick.