Last week it was Miley Cyrus, this week another Disney protege is attacking theaters across the country in the most original movie since… Every other movie ever made in this genre. 17 Again (itself a remake of the 1989 movie 18 Again. Why they felt it necessary to knock off a year is beyond me. Perhaps the pornographic connotations surrounding 18?…) tells the story of a man approaching middle-age with the apprehension and nostalgia everybody faces. Due to what looks like a magic whirlpool and a magician janitor, he is thrown into his seventeen year old body and allowed to be young again. Sound familiar? It should. No doubt there will be humorous antics as this man-child protects his daughter from the evil boys trying to date her and eventually realizes that ‘being young is hard,’ and that he should, ‘be closer with his children.’ I swear to you I have read no spoilers, but I guarantee you that’s what happens. Oh, there will also likely be some ‘adult situation’ he was supposed to handle, and he will now have to do it as a kid, to humorous results.
I write about this sarcastically, as if I don’t like the concept, but this isn’t entirely true. I actually tend to enjoy these movies, despite their lack of originality. 17 Again has surprisingly good reviews (at least compared to what I was predicting), and doesn’t look all bad. Yes, it’s ripe with cliche (the wise, magic janitor; the plot itself), but it actually has some potential to be a funny, light-hearted, feel-good movie. In honor of this movie hitting theaters, I will count down the top “Movies Where People Appear To Be Different Ages Than They Actually Are.”
5. Vice Versa
This film gets high marks for being original, for movies at least. Though the question remains: which film? There were 3 films made in 1918, 1937, and the most popular in 1948. As far as I can tell, the ’48 version was the first mainstream example. The plot? What the hell do you expect? A guy is given a magic stone, wishes he could have the carefree life his son, and voila. He does. They both take advantage of their new situation until they realize how hard life is for the other, and they have to relocate the lost stone to fix the situation. Evidently it’s based off a novel of the same name written in 1882, giving you some sense of how old this idea really is.
It was remade a FORTH TIME in 1988 (this era was fraught with the genre, along with box-cuts) in a movie starring Fred Savage and Judge Reinhold. It didn’t do that well at the box office and has never been all that respected critically.
4. Freaky Friday
Another one of those movies where you can ask: which version? It started as a children’s book in the seventies. The ‘classic’ film was released in 1976, there was a male version Like Father Like Son released in (guess when?) 1987, a made for TV feature in ’95, and the most recent 2003 version starring Lindsay Lohan. (tidbit: Vice Versa, Like Father Like Son, and 18 Again were all released within one year. Overkill much). The plot? A mother and daughter switch lives. The result? The mother has to deal with the difficulties of being an angst filled teenager, and the daughter has to find a way to use her youthful talents to help her mother’s career. All along, they learn to love each other more. In a surprise ending, they switch back and are better for the experience.
3. 13 Going on 30
I reluctantly include this on the list, and only do so for the respect it has received for the public at large. Personally, I don’t get it. Maybe it’s a girl thing. It’s essentially a remake of the winner on this list (an actual classic). I felt it didn’t really add anything to the genre, but was made just for the sake of it. I will say this: the movie’s charm comes almost exclusively from Jennifer Garner, who seems to enjoy the roll she is in. It garnered (get it? Garner… never mind.) pretty positive reviews and is considered a funny, albeit a retreading movie.
It’s not a movie you’d technically think of fitting in this genre. There’s no ‘supernatural switch,’ nobody suddenly waking up and screaming when they look into the mirror. Yet it completely fits into the absurdly long heading of this article. I would have included another Robin Williams Movie, Mrs. Doubtfire, but that was too much a stretch, since it’s only a costume that makes the person look older (it would certainly, however, make it onto the best “Going In Drag” movies, a list of only 2 movies, and the other isn’t White Chicks).
Jack however fits nicely into this list, once you accept the notion. There’s no magic in this story, no body switching or voodoo. Jack is a boy who has a rare aging disorder; he ages at four times the speed of a normal person. Thus at age 10, he appears to be 40. We see him interact with his classmates, and attempt to overcome their prejudice as he is different from everyone else. It’s a humorous, often touching movie (I defy someone not to feel sad when Jack asks his teacher, played by J-Lo, to the dance because he knows how strange it would be for the younger girls). Ultimately, it’s not about learning the difficulties of life or old age, but understanding to cherish life itself.
Note: I realize with this basis The Curious Case of Benjamin Button fits my criteria. Since I’ve made the list, I’ll say it’s too recent to tell. But it was a good movie.
If you saw the title of this post and didn’t immediately recognize that this movie would be number one, it means one of two things: you haven’t seen it recently, or you haven’t seen it at all. Either way, you need to go watch this movie. It really did transcend a lot of it’s genres stereotypes and delivered a quality, humorous, all around great movie that helped launch Tom Hanks’ career. The plot is as generic as the others: a young boy, tired of being excluded because of his youth, makes a wish to a carnival machine to be big. His wish is granted.
It’s the rest of this movie that makes it amazing. The supporting characters are great, and it shows the beauty of youthful thinking in an adult-minded world. In the classic scene pictured at the left, Josh plays foot piano with the CEO of a company, opening his inner youth and allowing Josh to get into the big leagues with his ‘fresh ideas.’ The movie is bold in many ways: the mother thinks Josh has been kidnapped, and is an emotional wreck the entire movie, and it’s highly implied that Josh loses his virginity while in his adult state. A risky movie, considering he’s only twelve.
What is perhaps the highlight of this movie is the relationship between Josh and his best friend. As he becomes more accustomed to adult life, he loses all of that boyish charm he first exhibited so strongly and begins to alienate the boy that had helped him the entire time. He finally realizes the beauty and rareness of youth, and works to turn back the process.
Funny Moment #46, at a nice dinner party Josh eats baby corn like corn on the cob and spits out caviar into a napkin.
These stories are old, repetitive, and formulaic, but somehow mange to still be fun and popular. I think they’re so appealing because they typically allow us to imagine looking at our lives from a different perspective. We can imagine how our own mother would act around us, not recognizing our thirty year old body. We can see how they might have feelings they can’t fully express to us. Ultimately, they all call for us to cherish the present (and, of course, realizing the difficulties of being a parent/teenager).