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Case Number 04386: Small Claims Court

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Vice Versa

Sony // 1988 // 98 Minutes // Rated PG
Reviewed by Judge Patrick Naugle // May 11th, 2004

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All Rise...

The Honorable Judge Patrick Naugle would hate to switch places with the Honorable Judge Reinhold.

The Charge

A comedy about not acting your age.

The Case

Some fathers just don't have time for their sons. Case in point: meet Marshall (Judge Reinhold), a divorced Chicago department store executive who spends too much time at work and not enough time with his 11-year old son, Charlie (Fred Savage). It seems that because of the generation gap, there are misunderstandings—Marshall thinks Charlie's youthful existence is easy while Charlie doesn't understand the rigors of the rat race. Through the magic powers of an ancient, golden Tibetan skull, Charlie and his father literally switch bodies. Suddenly Charlie is a middle-aged man while Marshall has become his young son. Wackiness ensues (and really, when doesn't it?) when two smugglers attempt to retrieve the skull while Charlie and Marshall discover that walking in each others shoes isn't as easy as each of them thought.

I'm not going to get into a big dissertation about body switch movies. For some inexplicable reason, producers in the 1980s felt we needed not one but two body switch movies, and from the same studio, no less. The first was 1987's Like Father, Like Son, a slapstick farce pairing Dudley Moore with Kirk Cameron, the equivalent of putting sex and blowtorches together. Needless to say, that was an all around baaaad movie. This did not bode well for the 1988 pairing of child actor Fred Savage (The Wonder Years) and Judge "How The Hell Did I Become A Leading Man?" Reinhold (Fast Times at Ridgemont High) in the cleverly titled Vice Versa. While I'm not going to say Vice Versa was a complete success (based on the 1948 film of the same name), it certainly wasn't the abysmal failure of Like Father, Like Son. [Editor's Note: I'll fend off the inevitable emails and say that Patrick forgot about a third body-switch movie from the same year: 18 Again! starring George Burns.]

I have to admit that I enjoyed Vice Versa more than anticipated, which on a scale of one to ten was around a negative three. In 2003, the body switch formula was reenergized with the Jamie Lee Curtis / Lindsay Lohan remake Freaky Friday. While Curtis and Reinhold aren't much of a comparison (True Lies versus Beverly Hills Cop III? No contest!), I found a few laughs in Vice Versa, even if they aren't big, hearty ones. I have to give credit to Reinhold for pulling off a nuanced performance that actually made me believe that a child had inhabited his body (his slouching and "aw-shucks" demeanor is priceless). Fred Savage also hits all the right chords as Charlie/Marshall, inducing chuckles as he barks orders to his secretary and reads the Wall Street Journal while carpooling to school. They're supported ably by a sneering Swoosie Kurtz (Bubble Boy) and befuddled David Proval (TV's The Sopranos) as smugglers attempting to retrieve the sacred, magical body-switching idol. And of course, wackiness ensues.

Vice Versa isn't much more than disposable '80s entertainment, and on that level it succeeds. It was momentarily fun to watch Savage sipping down martinis while Reinhold attempts to make out with his father's girlfriend. I laughed, I cried, I laughed some more…then I realized I was watching a body switch movie and quickly checked the room to make sure no one was looking.

Vice Versa is presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen. Overall Columbia has done a fine job at making sure this print is free of any major imperfections. The colors and black levels are all well represented without any scratches or nicks in the print. Though there is the slightest amount of dirt or grain in the image, overall this decent transfer will make fans of the film—and the 1980s in general—very happy.

The soundtrack is presented in Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround in English. There isn't much to write about concerning this sound mix—overall the music, dialogue, and effects are in good shape without any major distortion or hiss. Hey, I'm not going to start complaining that Vice Versa wasn't given a 5.1 overhaul—this mix is in good shape, and that's all that was really needed. Also included on this disc are English and Spanish subtitles.

Unless you're able to switch Vice Versa with the four-disc Lord of the Rings sets, you ain't gettin' jack when it comes to extra features aside of a few theatrical trailers.

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Scales of Justice

Judgment: 76

Perp Profile

Studio: Sony
Video Formats:
• 1.85:1 Anamorphic
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (English)
• English
• Spanish
Running Time: 98 Minutes
Release Year: 1988
MPAA Rating: Rated PG
• Comedy

Distinguishing Marks

• Theatrical Trailers


• IMDb

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