Vice Versa

Vice Versa

In which Jason and Kate Sweeney review the trailer for Vice Versa. Part of a series of trailer reviews for body-switching comedies of the 70′s, 80′s, and 90′s. 

JASON

You know how I can tell this is going to be a good movie? The trailer starts off with a young Fred Savage holding a skull and sassing his dad. It really adds emphasis to your sass when you’re holding a skull. A lot of people don’t know this, but Hamlet’s famous soliloquy in which he’s holding a skull is supposed to be performed in a sassy voice. Hamlet was the Jackée of his time. And Macbeth was the Marla Gibbs. In fact, Shakespeare’s entire body of work was essentially the 227 of the 1600’s.

Even the skull has a sassy expression on its face as it vomits body-swapping magic all over Judge Reinhold and Fred Savage. It’s all like, “Gotcha’, bitches!” Much like Jackée, it has a complete inability to understand context when you’re holding it and making wishes. “Figure of speech? Figure this speech—you need to go out and get new shoes! I can see your rapidly aging toes, you body-switching dummies.”

Another way I know this is going to be a good movie? The trailer describes Judge Reinhold as a “successful businessman and self-professed workaholic” inside of whom “beats the heart of a little boy.” Yikes!

KATE

So, they swapped hearts? That’s what’s going on? Because I’m no medical expert here, but I’m unconvinced that the heart of a little boy could adequately power the body of a 36-year old man. Their souls switching: Sure. But if it’s literal heart-swapping hijinks, then I’m not prepared to believe this. Because, look at this: We’re led to believe that Fred-as-Judge’s first move in his father’s grown body is to go all wild on a skateboard—as it must be, because this is an ’80s movie, in which skateboarding must necessarily be the ultimate shorthand for rascally joie de vivre (See also, most notably: Marty McFly.) In this case, though, he’d better watch it, because the heart of a little boy shall not beat inside him for long if he doesn’t take a breather.

Jason, is it within your power to concoct a montage of body-swappin’ parent-and-child-standing-inches-from-each-other-and-screaming as the incredible truth of their magic swap hits them in full? I love this plot device principally because it allows for us to view this moment again and again through whole host of actors, from Jodie Foster, to Lindsay Lohan, to Shelly Long. Did the makers of Freaky Friday the First realize what they’d started? It’s so great. On the other hand, so much else about this plot device unsettles me. Grown-ups running around with the hearts of eleven-year-olds. Eleven-year-olds running around with the libidos of grown-ups. That WHOLE THING in Big where the little kid who becomes Tom Hanks sleeps with Elizabeth Perkins. Ew. Ew EW. Not because she’s Elizabeth Perkins, but because she’s basically Elizabeth Perkins, sleeping with a CHILD. I mean, I guess Big isn’t technically built on the Freaky Friday model. Still, I’d like to take this opportunity to voice my objection.

JASON

Kate, you know who’s got the heart of ten Judge Reinholds? Whoever starts playing the saxophone halfway into this trailer. He really gets going right around the time Fred Savage sasses his mom/ex-wife in the tub. Also, would it have killed them to have the magic skull surface with a bloop noise right after Fred Savage says, “I’m in the tub, do you mind?!” and maybe the skull could be wearing a shower cap?

Again, I cannot stress the sass-enhancing powers of a skull enough.

Do you think when the sax player was scoring this trailer, he was thinking “body-switching hijinks?” Like, do you think he tried to capture musically what’s it like to walk around in your father’s body, or have your son walk around in your body? I’m definitely getting a “here we go again” vibe, but I’m not sure I hear the spiritual and physical questions that come with the total displacement of one’s soul being answered in the jazzy bleating of the Vice Versa saxophonist.

I’m starting to suspect that this uncredited musician has only had his soul in one body his entire life, has never yelled at Judge Reinhold while holding human remains, has never stepped into a Project Quantum Leap accelerator, and most shameful of all—has never had a single Freaky Friday.

KATE

Jason, I got really thrilled for a moment this morning when I thought I’d uncovered the answer to this Mystery of the Un-credited Sassy Saxer. I was so psyched to whip out this photo and declare, “Why, it’s none other than these guys!”

a_town_called_malice

Yep. Our old pals, Malice, of such memorable tunes of your youth and mine, as “Crazy in the Night,” “Squeeze it Dry,” and the title track of our film, “Vice Versa.” Malice were chosen by the wise minds behind the film to be the auditory manifestation of unaffected boyishness, i.e. the musical version of Judge Reinhold’s skateboard. But nowhere on my spirit journey into the history of this band do I see a single mention of a saxophonist, which I guess means that you’re right; Mr. Sassy Himself must remain a mystery.

I’m going to step forward here though, to make a bold pronouncement: Our filmmakers made some smart choices, but also some poor ones. (I know: Bold!)  Sure, Malice’s riffs encompass the auditory “spirit of a nine-year-old” who lives in all of us and chooses to express himself through frosty pink lipstick, lycra and lyrics like “Getting’ ready for the show tonight, she pulls her stockings on nice ‘n tight/Slipping into a black lace dress, smiling with a knowing caress.”  Also, the decision to cast Judge Reinhold: Smart. Perhaps more than any other actor of his era, Reinhold possessed the quirky ability to telegraph boyish oafishness. When I see him acting like an actual nine-(or eleven, whatever)-year old, I don’t see Fred Savage inside of him. I see Judge Reinhold being goofy, juvenile Judge Reinhold.

And I don’t think I’m alone in this. As we all know, at the time of shooting of this film, Fred Savage was already embodied by another grown-man spirit. That’s this guy:

daniel_stern

It’s Daniel Stern, the actor who did the “adult-version Kevin” voiceover work for The Wonder Years. When we imagine the internal dialogue of a young Fred Savage, we do not envision some crazy kid; we imagine a wry, bittersweet adult. And, I further argue: This would be true whether or not Fred Savage had ever been cast in Wonder Years.

It’s a Savage thing. For contrast, I give you a contemporary of Savage: Macaulay Culkin—the child actor who, funnily enough, shared the screen with Daniel Stern in that paean to Hollywood-style boyhood, Home Alone. Now, I want you to compare a child Culkin with a child Savage in a scene where either is reading a Wall Street Journal and cracking wise about kids these days.

In 11-year-old Culkin, such a move would absolutely telegraph “possession by grown-up via Freaky Friday-ish magic.”  But Fred Savage exited the womb cracking dry little bon mots. When he opens the paper in with a dispirited little flourish, or calls this whole sitch “a Freudian nightmare,” we do not for a moment think, “Oh, he’s Judge Reinhold inside.” Judge Reinhold’s off on the steps by the mall maxin’ out on the skateboard, which is a thousand times more Reinhold-y than it is Savage. One would almost hope this movie’s twist ending features the lack of a switchback. (Except for the disturbing sexual element. I stand by that.)

JASON

Kate, I just wish Fred Savage could get born just once without making a catty comment! Whether it’s his actual birth, or his rebirth in Judge Reinhold’s corporeal form. Making sarcastic comments while being inside of Judge Reinhold should strictly be the province of Mrs. Reinhold, right?

Anyway, every good back-and-forth must come to an end, including our kick-ass review of the Vice Versa trailer.

Kate, may you never have your body switched by a sassy magic skull, but if you do—may your adventures be scored by Malice, and your internal monologue be spoken by the incredible Daniel Stern. Wait. Do you think that was Daniel Stern’s skull the whole time??! Best not to think too hard about it. Seriously, has anybody seen him lately?

Kate Sweeney is a public radio producer who writes and runs the “True Story!” reading series. Her first book, American Afterlife, is forthcoming from UGA Press in 2014. Writing for Scene Missing makes her feel like a Pepsi.

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