How many times have you blown out the ever-increasing amount of birthday cake candles and wished you could go back to high school and relive your youth? (Or at least redo the stuff you screwed up?) We all romanticize how much easier things were when we were 17 years old. But was it really easier? In the new movie 17 Again (not to be confused with 18 Again, the ‘80s body-swap romp with George Burns), frustrated, middle-aged loser Mike O’Donnell, played by Matthew Perry, finds out when he wakes up one morning to find he’s trapped in the body of his former 17-year-old self, played by Zac Efron. Feel like you’ve heard this story before? That’s because you have. The body swap movie is one of those Hollywood gimmicks that just gets made and remade with the same cinematic devices used along the way. And we’ve uncovered them for you! So before you check out 17 Again, here are the dos and don’ts that every body switcheroo film must have.
DO: Cast a way hotter version of the adult as he was back in the day. Someone who would never grow up to look like that adult.
In the movie Like Father Like Son, do you really think Dudley Moore looked like total babe Kirk Cameron when he was in high school? Of course not. Nor did Matthew Perry possibly look like perfectly sculpted, primped and a bit too pretty Zac Efron when he was a teen. Body swap movies are notorious for creating this false sense of reality. They send goofy looking grownups back in time to high school where they were total hotties. The reason is obvious. Hormonal teenage girls won’t flock to the multiplex in droves if Matthew Perry turned into, say, chubby funster Jonah Hill. Sorry Jonah, but chicks dig the chiseled cheekbones.
DON’T: Fight fate while you’re back in time and try to fall in love with someone else. It’s not happening.
In Peggy Sue Got Married, Kathleen Turner was on the verge of a miserable divorce from her high school sweetheart, played by Nicolas Cage, when she is sent back in time to her senior year in high school. Naturally, she tries everything not to fall in love with Nic Cage again and to change the course of her life. She even makes out with a different guy she always had a crush on. However, nothing works and she inevitably sees the reasons why she fell in love with Nic in the first place and falls for him again. So apparently, even if you go back in time, your life will still suck. Thanks, Hollywood!
DO: Use whatever skills you have to survive.
If you’re Josh Baskin from Big, and just went from age 13 to 35 overnight, what the heck are you going to do in the grown-up world? Use whatever skills you’ve got, that’s what. Wondering how? For example, when Josh ran into the president of his company checking out the products at FAO Schwarz, he impressed him with his childlike enthusiasm and played a duet of “Heart and Soul” with him on a giant foot-operated electronic keyboard. The next day Josh had a big fancy job! Using the tools you have will not only get you promoted but will also lead to a beautiful and ambitious toy executive falling in love with you. Now aren’t you glad your mother made you take piano?
DON’T: Freak out that you might be stuck in the body of someone else for the rest of your life. In the movies, it’s all good.
When someone wakes up in another person’s body in the movies they freak out for about 30 seconds and then continue to live life as the other person. No one ever worries that they might be trapped in the body of someone else forever! If that happened to us, we’d be running around drinking potions, tracking down clergy…anything that might help to change us back. But in 13 Going On 30, Jennifer Garner wakes up at age 30, completely disregards the fact that yesterday she was 13, and instead gets caught up in all the drama that takes place at her job in the magazine world. Reality check: We don’t care if we wake up as someone who works for Oprah, gets free Christian Louboutin shoes and dates Daniel Craig. We will still be losing our minds because we’re in another person’s body!
DO: Come to a greater understanding of the person you swapped bodies with and/or learn a lesson about being grateful and appreciating the life you have.
In Freaky Friday (made and remade three times!), both mother and daughter think they have it harder in life and have very little sympathy for what the other is going through. Until, of course, they switch bodies and realize it’s not easy being a single mom of two or a teenager trying to navigate the tricky waters of high school. By the end of the film, they both come to a greater understanding and appreciation for each other. Unfortunately, that is when the movie ends and we don’t see how long that understanding actually lasts. We’re betting until prom.
DON’T: Bother telling anyone that you’re from the past or future because the only person who is going to believe you is your best friend.
This one is a classic device in virtually every body swap movie. No one will believe you that you’ve been transported in time, not even your own mother, as in the case of Big. When Hanks, as a 35-year-old Josh, tries to convince his mother that he’s her 13-year-old son, she screams bloody murder, threatens to call the cops and proceeds to chase him out of the house with a butcher’s knife. The only person who believes Josh is his best friend Billy who seems very relaxed about the whole ordeal. However, he does vow to find the Zoltar machine that got Josh into the whole mess. So much for mother’s intuition.
DO: Get a makeover!
Since you’re not worrying about the fact that you currently reside in another human’s body, why not spend all that free time getting a makeover? If you’re stuck you might as well at least wear clothes that will make you feel comfortable as well as stylish. So, for example, if you’re stuck in your mother’s body, how about dumping the mom jeans, grab her credit card and head over to the True Religion store to pick out some denim that accentuates your/her positives. And for those adult actors who just swapped bodies with a teen, wear your baseball hat backwards and slouch. That’s a great way to remind the audience you’re a teenager. Saying “dude” a lot also works.
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