At this point the body switch comedy genre is pretty well worn. Big, Freaky Friday (twice), 17 Again, 13 Going On 30 etc have pretty much defined and exhausted what can be done with the concept to keep it fresh. The latter 2004 hit actually starred Jennifer Garner who is now returning to the genre again, this time as producer and star of Netflix‘s holiday comedy, Family Switch. This time around the formula is expanded to have an entire family experience a life altering cosmic moment and become their opposites. The parents become their kids, the kids become their parents, even the baby becomes the French Bulldog. Guess what? It works, even offering some LOL moments along the way in a movie that isn’t trying to reinvent anything here, just find a new angle to squeeze some more life out of it.
Inspired by the book “Bedtime For Mommy” by author Amty Krouse Rosenthal who also is responsible for the source material on Garner’s last Netflix family outing, Yes Day, this film adaptation is actually quite different as the fully family body switch idea is added here to what was originally a sweet book about the kid telling the parent bedtime stories. Here a game cast goes in for a lot of physical gags and challenging situations designed to demonstrate the chasm between the teens and their parents, with the ultimate goal of course to show it takes some drastic action to truly understand what each is going through, sort of a “walk a mile in my shoes” scenario.
Jess Walker (Garner) is a bit of a workaholic architect about to propose a major new project to her colleagues. She is the top earner in the family which includes husband Bill (Ed Helms), a frustrated musician and music teacher who is on the precipice of living his young dream of being a rock and roller in his band, Dad Or Alive (the actual band members of Weezer make up the others). CC (Wednesday’s Emma Myers) is a competitive soccer player more concerned with winning than anything else on her high school team, which brother Wyatt (Good Boys Brady Noon) is a somewhat shy 16 year old.
So one day on a family outing their encounter with a astrological psychic (Rita Moreno) somehow leads to an unexplainable life altering event when Jess and CC and Bill and Wyatt each wind up finding themselves in each others bodies. The same goes for toddler Miles and Pickles, the family French Bulldog. Hilarity ensues? You bet, as writers Victoria Strouse and Adam Sztykiel milk every possible situation out of this occurence, and director McG keeps the pace fast and furious. Jess and Bill find their youth and attraction renewed at a teenage dance. CC and Wyatt learn what it is exactly like to be responsible for others. Pickles and Miles get the big laughs.
A game cast with Garner and Helms appearing to have a blast, and the appealing Myers and Noon joining them in adopting the ideal physicality to pull this all off, but also the smarts not to let it sail over the top. And yes, it is all set at Christmastime, but despite the outward appearances of the holiday this is not what I would call a “Christmas movie” at all, even if the ultimate gift exchanged is a new understanding and appreciation for each member of this tribe. Moreno is imposing and fine in her brief role, and a supporting cast including German star Matthias Schweighofter struggles to find much to do in one-dmensional roles.
This is just pure family fun, nothing more but thankfully nothing less. Producers are Garner, McG, Lawrence Grey, Ben Everard, Nicole King Solaka, Mary Viola.
Title: Family Switch
Release Date: November 30, 2023 (Streaming on Netflix)
Screenwriter: Victoria Strouse and Adam Sztykiel
Cast: Jennifer Garner, Ed Helms, Emma Myers, Brady Noon, Rita Moreno, Matthias Schweighofer
Running Time: 1 hour and 41 minutes