From the first trailer, it has been clear that ‘Shazam!’ was a new kind of superhero movie. While most kids fantasize about having amazing powers, in this picture, Zachary Levi is actually playing a teenager who suddenly finds himself in a mighty adult body. And Levi’s wide-eyed wonder as he discovers his abilities is a joy to behold!
It looks as though Warner Brothers has another DC Universe hit on its sparkly hands.
But adult actors playing kids in the wrong body is nothing new. Nor is the idea of an adult trapped in a kid’s body. Whether it’s due to body-switching or simple magical nonsense, check out these ten classic movies in which adults were kids, or “Vice Versa” (pun totally intended), or both!
Freaky Friday (1976)
In this Disney picture, teenage Jodie Foster plays Annabel and Barbara Harris plays her mother Ellen. One Friday the 13th, they two are in separate locations when they both declare at the same time that they’d like to switch places with the other, and they do!
This story is based on the 1972 kids book of the same name, written by Mary Rodgers, and this film adaptation’s screenplay was penned by Rodgers herself! A huge hit, ‘Freaky Friday’ earned both Foster and Harris Golden Globe nominations for Best Actress!
Like Father, Like Son (1987)
In 1987, Kirk Cameron was one of the hottest teen idols around. In ‘Like Father, Like Son’, as Chris Hammond, he’s a fairly mediocre student and track runner which upsets his successful doctor father, Jack, played by Dudley Moore.
The switcheroo comes via a Native American concoction in a Tabasco bottle, which Jack accidentally sprinkles in his Bloody Mary. ‘Like Father, Like Son’ perhaps panders to its kid audience more than other movies of this kind. In their switched bodies, Chris-as-Jack goes on a shopping spree with his best friend Trigger, played by another ’80s heartthrob Sean Astin, wreaks havoc at the hospital where Jack works, and unknowingly hooks up with the wife of his dad’s boss. Meanwhile, Jack-as-Chris is a total loser at school, flaunting his smarts, and calling out slackers, which makes him the target of bullies, before completely failing at the big track meet, where he makes an idiot of himself and loses the girl.
Although this is clearly for kids or teens, there’s a lot of coarse language, as shown in the clip above. And apparently, in the ’80s boys gym uniforms consisted of short shorts and belly tees. Yikes. Good times!
18 Again! (1988)
Perhaps the biggest gap in the switched-bodies genre occurred in ’18 Again!’, in which comedy legend George Burns played 81-year-old Jack Watson who, on his birthday, winds up switching bodies with his 18-year-old grandson, David, played by Charlie Schlatter.
Not much is demanded of Burns, who spends most of the movie as David-in-Jack’s body in a coma at the hospital. The majority of the film features Schlatter acting like an old man as Jack-in-David’s body discovers that he (Jack) has alienated his family, forced his grandson to follow in his footsteps to his detriment and that he is being bamboozled by his younger girlfriend.
And yes, that is Paulie Shore as David’s best friend, Barrett.
The KING of these movies, ‘Big’ differs from most of the others, because in it, the main character, Josh Baskin, doesn’t swap bodies with anyone. As played by David Moscow, he makes a wish on a seemingly-broken fortune-telling machine called Zoltar, simply wishing to be “Big.” The next day he wakes up as Tom Hanks.
This picture catapulted Hanks into Hollywood’s A-List where he has remained ever since. But to get nitpicky, Hanks is playing a 12-year-old (and Moscow, quite frankly looks older than that), yet he comes across much younger. He decks out his apartment with bunk beds, toys, and other kiddie accouterments. He’s so naïve that he doesn’t get the crude double entendre his coworker, played by John Lovitz, makes about a female officemate and is completely clueless when his girlfriend, Susan (Elizabeth Perkins), wants to spend the night with him. 12-year-olds know stuff.
But it’s hard to be too critical of such a beloved classic film.
Vice Versa (1988)
For some reason, in ‘Vice Versa’, the father– Judge Reinhold as uptight yuppie Marshall Seymour– and son– ‘The Wonder Years’ Fred Savage as Charlie Seymour– don’t just swap personas. They actually morph into one another, as depicted post-swap, when Charlie is swimming in Marshall’s adult clothes, while Marshall looks like the Incredible Hulk, covered in scraps of fabric. (The transformation in this one comes about thanks to an ancient skull artifact that Marshall dumbasses across on a business trip to Thailand.)
Unlike the younger characters in the other movies on this list, Charlie is an actual KID, just eleven years old, so when Reinhold portrays Charlie-as-Marshall, he really gets to goof it up, making ridiculous faces and generally not getting what it means to be an adult at all. Savage, on the flipside, gets to play wise well beyond his years. (He asks the school cafeteria workers if they have any Grey Poupon!)
Dream a Little Dream (1989)
Perhaps hoping to replicate the success of ‘Cocoon’ and ‘Cocoon 2’, this picture was marketed on the appeal of both its young cast– The Coreys, Haim and Feldman– and older stars– Jason Robards, Piper Laurie, and Harry Dean Stanton. Feldman, during the time when he was hanging out with Michael Jackson a lot, plays a bizarrely dressed teen named Bobby Keller, who winds up switching bodies with his elderly neighbor, Coleman Ettinger, due to the elder’s yoga/new age practices.
Somehow, Bobby’s consciousness is suspended in a “dream state” which Coleman visits when he is asleep. Also trapped in the dream state is Coleman’s wife, Gena (Laurie), who doesn’t remember him because part of her consciousness was transferred into the body of Booby’s crush, Lainie (Meredith Salenger).
Perhaps this movie arrived too soon after the glut of body-switching movies of the late ’80s. Maybe the concept was just too convoluted and off-the-wall. Maybe it was the bizarre Corey Feldman courting Lainie by doing his best MJ dance moves scene. But out of these pictures, ‘Dream a Little Dream’ fared the worst at the box office and is probably the least fondly recalled.
Freaky Friday (2003)
It-girl Lindsay Lohan was on a role and was paired with Jamie Lee Curtis in a Disney-produced remake of the Jodie Foster/Barbara Harris classic. In the original, there was no explanation for the body-switch, beyond the fact that it was Friday the 13th. In the update, the change comes thanks to a mystical fortune cookie.
Lohan’s Anna is an aspiring rock star, and brings a bit of edge to Curtis’ Tess– she wears a thong and rides on the back of a motorcycle. For a Disney movie, this one has some pretty risque humor! As tends to be the case, the more amusing sequences involve Curtis playing a teenager in an adult’s body. As is also usually the case, the two realize that the grass isn’t greener and the other side and develop a new respect for each other.
13 Going on 30 (2004)
’13 Going on 30′ takes a unique approach to the body-swapping concept. In it, the lead character Jenna Rink wishes she were adult and her 13-year-old mind is sent into the future into her 30-year-old body who has already lived 13 years and created an adult life, in which the new child-like Jenna finds herself. (All thanks to “magic dust” a.k.a. glitter on a handmade dollhouse given to her by her next-door neighbor and best friend Matt.)
She wakes up in a strange New York City apartment in a grownup body, in the present. Jenna discovers that she is an assistant editor of a fashion magazine, but also soon learns that the adult Jenna is corrupt and back-stabbing. It seems the more she learns about herself as an adult, the more she hates herself. But after finding Matt (Mark Ruffalo), now a photographer, she starts making massive changes, applying her youthful optimism and honesty to adult Jenna’s shady affairs. Along the way, however, she crosses the conniving allies she had before the switch.
17 Again (2009)
37-year-old Mike O’Donnell, played by Matthew Perry, finds himself trapped in a dead-end life. His wife Scarlet (Leslie Mann) has kicked him out, his teenage kids want nothing to do with him, he has to move in with his wealthy but dorky friend Ned (Thomas Lennon), and he winds up being passed over for a promotion because he is too old. Thanks to a magical encounter with a janitor on a bridge, he is reverted back to the age of 17, when he is suddenly played by Zac Efron.
Look, none of these movies is even remotely realistic, but I’m calling bullsh** on Zac Efron growing up to be Matthew Perry.
As a teenager, Mike wedges his way into the lives of his kids and Scarlet. It seems that he has been so busy with his job that he has neglected them. He helps his son Alex (Sterling Knight) gain confidence, encourages his daughter Maggie (Michelle Trachtenberg) to ditch her loser boyfriend, and in a somewhat creepy plotline, attempts to repair his relationship with Scarlet, even though he appears to be a 17-year-old.
Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle (2017)
‘Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle’ really ups the ante, by placing FOUR teenagers into adult bodies to comedic effect. After getting sucked into an 8-bit video game, nerdy Spencer (Alex Wolff) finds himself in the ripped body of Smolder Bravestone (Dwayne Johnson), star football player “Fridge” (Ser’Darius Blain) inhabits the short, non-athletic form of “Mouse” Finbar (Kevin Hart), wallflower Martha (Morgan Turner) becomes the va-va-voom dance fighter Ruby Roundhouse (Karen Gillan), and popular Queen Bee Bethany (Madison Iseman) must adjust to being an out-of-shape MAN (and all that goes along with that), as “Shelly” Oberon (Jack Black).
This mixture was a crowd-pleaser and ‘Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle’ became Sony’s top-grossing movie ever, outpacing even the ‘Spider-Man’ franchise. A sequel will arrive this winter.
Coming Soon: Little (2019)
Believe it or not, the idea for this movie originated with its young star Marsai Martin (‘black-ish’) at the age of 10, after she saw ‘Big’. Now 14, Martin is the youngest person to ever act as the producer of a film! She also plays the youthful version of Jordan Sanders (Regina Hall), a cutthroat tech exec. After yelling at a young girl, that girl waves a magic wand and wishes that Jordan was “Little.” Now a kid, she struggles to keep her company going, when she must attend school, where she gets a crush on her hot teacher, played by Justin Hartley. Issa Rae portrays her flustered assistant, April.
To keep the body-switching theme going, ‘Little’ opens the weekend after ‘Shazam!’ on April 12.
How will ‘Shazam!’ measure up to these past hits? We’ll know soon!
‘Shazam!’ opens on April 5.