by Seth Freilich
1. Vice Versa exists. This film sadly got lost in the crowd between the more well-known Dudley Moore/Kirk Cameron switcheroo Like Father, Like Son, which came out in late 1987, and the appropriately beloved Big, which came out in the summer of ’88. And it is sad because Vice Versa, “a comedy about not acting your age,” is a cute little film, and a good showcase for Judge Reinhold and a pre-Wonder Years Fred Savage.
2. The film has a classy pedigree. How many light ’80s comedies can you name based on 19th century comic novels?
…That’s what I thought. Well, now you can name at least one, because Vice Versa is based on an 1882 novel of the same name by Thomas Antsey Guthrie (under the pseudonym F. Anstey, which he used for his funny books).
3. It doesn’t hide the ball. Vice Versa has balls, man. A lot of other body switch films hide the actual change up from the viewer, presumably because of budgetary concerns. But Vice Versa don’t play like that. Mystic Tibetan skull thingy, show us what you got:
Hokey? You bet. Awesome? You bet! …Plus, looks an awful lot like the modern Doctor’s regeneration there for a moment, don’t it? Note to Moffett: Judge Reinhold as the next Doctor. This needs to happen!
4. It’s a film Homer Simpson would love. We all know what it takes to please the world’s finest film critic:
Well, here ya go Homey:
5. Vice Versa is unquestionably an ’80s flick. From awesome ’80s sidekick kid:
…to awesome ’80s electronic guitar:
…to awesome ’80s remote control Voltron:
Seriously, where can I get that Voltron?
6. Child alcoholism!
7. Homo eroticism!
8. “Music is my life, dad!”
I mean, that’s just awesome, we can all agree on this, right?
9. “I am not me and my father is not him. My father is me and I am my father.” There’s a fun game you can play with this, which is to think about Fred Savage and Judge Reinhold switching places themselves. The infamous Fast Times scene become kinda sweet when it’s just a six-year-old kid watching Phoebe Cates take her top off, right?
Whereas The Wonder Years becomes very stalkery when you’ve got a thirty-year-old man pining after young Winnie Cooper.
Fred Savage has gone on to become a fantastic comedic director and one wonders what episodes of Happy Endings, Party Down and It’s Always Sunny would look like with Reinhold and his more goofy sensibilities behind the camera. But I’d love to see Peter Falk reading The Princess Bride to a sick Judge Reinhold, not gonna lie.
10. It shares the joy of being a man. Charlie, now in the body of his father, discovers that he has pubes and, well, that’s exciting for an eleven year old boy.
While Vice Versa has a few laugh-out-loud moments, it’s by no means a great comedy. But Judge Reinhold is fantastic as a man child and from this moment of the film on, it’s quietly endearing. Savage is also great as this little ball of asshole child, but this is really Reinhold’s flick. As I was watching the movie last week for the first time in about two decades, a co-worker came into my office, saw it on my screen, laughed, and sweetly said, “Aw man, I loved that movie.” And that’s exactly right.
This isn’t necessarily a film anyone needs to see today. But if you saw it back then, the thought of it likely leaves a warm spot in your heart because Vice Versa is a great nostalgia film. Plus, you know, man getting hit by football:
Seth Freilich is the technical advisor and a film critic for Film School Rejects.