Judge Swaps Place with a Savage
Body swapping between child and adult and the various variations on the theme is nothing new, it's been a staple of cinema for many years. Long before we had even heard of the likes of "Freaky Friday" and "Big", the concept had already been explored. Even "Vice Versa" itself has been done before with adaptations of the novel that it is based on hitting the screen in the first half of the 20th century. All sounds a bit ominous then that the 1988 version of "Vice Versa" starring Judge Reinhold and Fred Savage will just be another one of those all too familiar movies and watching it retrospectively sadly it is, but on it's original release I remember enjoying it more than now.
Seymour Marshall (Judge Reinhold - Beverly Hills Cop II) a go getting vice president for a Chicago department store who having got divorced struggles to relate to his son Charlie (Fred Savage - The Princess Bride). On returning to Chicago from a business trip abroad Marshall discovers he's come in to possession of a strange Tibetan artefact, which when Charlie and Marshall accidentally touch at the same time they end up some how swapping bodies. Now stuck in his sons body Marshall has to go to school and Charlie, looking like his father, has to go to work. But with Marshall's girlfriend on the scene and a couple of crooks after the artefact things are even more complicated than first thought.
The trouble is that everything about "Vice Versa" is all too predictable; it follows a formula which is a basis of all these body swap movies and so is comparable to the better known ones, not always coming out favourably. Scenes feel like they have been pinched from other movies, which considering "Vice Versa" came out ahead of some of these other movies sadly means that it's not as memorable. For example "Vice Versa" features an amusing scene where Charlie ends up playing the drums in the music store, which feels like it's imitating the famous keyboard scene in "Big", except "Vice Versa" was released in the same year as "Big" and in fact came out 3 months earlier, it's just "Big" does the scene better. That's the thing whilst "Vice Versa" is adequate in the way it approaches the movie, there is very little which really sticks in your mind.
The addition to the storyline about the crooks desperate to get their hands on the Buddhist artefact adds little to the overall enjoyment, only really coming in to play towards the end of the movie. In fairness for a child this element probably works better and helps inject some excitement into the mix over whether or not Marshall and Charlie will be able to switch back, but for adults it's all too predictable, you know how it's going to all end up.
Plus there is also the addition of the father son relationship, again it's an element often used in similar movies where the father is too busy all the time. Whilst tired and predictable it at least adds some meaning to the movie as Charlie and Marshall bond during their unfortunate time as each other.
The fact that "Vice Versa" is formulaic and predictable means that to work it needs some good performances and this is where "Vice Versa" excels with Judge Reinhold and Fred Savage making it funnier than I expected. Reinhold is brilliant as the child in an adults body, having fun with being able to behave like a child, but he also exhibits those characteristics of a child, such as the dancing behind people's backs when they're not looking and the wonderful imagination such as when he pretends to be a cop. Likewise Savage is equally good at playing the adult trapped in a child's body. Between the two of them they do what is important, they convince you that they have swapped through their facial expressions and body language.
The rest of the cast are purely filler, Corinne Bohrer as Sam is the obvious love interest who finds herself in the middle of this body mix up and makes the most impression.
What this all boils down to is that whilst "Vice Versa" is a perfectly enjoyable movie, with some humorous moments and very good performances from Judge Reinhold and Fred Savage, it is just pretty unmemorable. It's all very formulaic and rarely adds anything to the story which makes it feel different to all the other more memorable body swap movies. Take it for what it is a fun piece of 80's movie nostalgia and enjoy the simplicity of it all.