In this new Netflix comedy directed by McG, Family Switch follows the Walker family, where Jess (Jennifer Garner) works as an architect while her husband Bill (Ed Helms) is a music teacher. Despite his current life as a family man, he still wanted to fulfil his dream of nailing an upcoming big performance with his band, Dad or Alive, where his bandmates are played by Weezer in cameo appearances.
We learn that Jess is a workaholic and a strict mum who likes to be in control. The latter is especially true as she wants her teenage daughter CC (Emma Myers) to focus more on her academics, even though her true passion lies in becoming a competitive soccer player in the U.S. national team.
Jess and Bill also have a younger son, Wyatt (Brady Noon), who loves all things science and mathematics. The Walkers finally have a baby named Miles (Lincoln and Theodore Skyes) and a pet dog, Pickles.
CC and Wyatt barely enjoy spending quality time with their parents and they always disagree with each other (read: generation gap). Then comes the fateful night during their family trip to the Griffith Observatory: A mysterious figure (Rita Moreno) helps them take a family photo and well, something happens.
Long story short, the Walkers wake up the next morning in their respective bedrooms feeling different. They are surprised to find themselves swapping bodies.
If the idea of Jennifer Garner leading a comedy in the body-swapping genre sounds familiar, that’s because she had done it nineteen years earlier in 13 Going on 30 back in 2004. It’s nice to see her returning to the genre that got her first leading role in a feature-length film at the time. Here, she handles the two sides of her characters well: A no-nonsense middle-aged mum and a confused teenager (CC) trapped in a mum’s body. The latter allows Garner to showcase her game performance with hilarious results. Whether she can’t hold herself from farting in front of everybody due to her lactose intolerance after eating ice cream or gets overwhelmed during her daughter’s soccer match, Garner certainly had a blast playing the body-swapping role.
The same also goes for Ed Helms as well as Emma Myers and Brady Noon. It also helps that they share excellent chemistry and I enjoy watching them play off each other. Family Matters is also blessed with some solid supporting turns, notably Matthias Schweighöfer as Walkers’ baby and dog sitter, Rolf and Fortune Feimster as CC’s soccer coach, Kim.
McG, who worked on a screenplay adapted by Victoria Strouse and Adam Sztykiel from Amy Krouse Rosenthal‘s book Bedtime for Mommy, doesn’t reinvent the familiar body-swapping genre. It’s easy to argue that he plays safe with the formula but surprisingly, despite the predictable nature of the movie, Family Switch is fun, whimsical and entertaining enough to keep me mostly hooked throughout its 101-minute duration. It’s well-paced and even though McG tends to rely on crude potty humour, at least he doesn’t end up making it annoying or grossly unfunny.
The story’s obligatory lesson on what it’s like living in one’s shoes is all familiar stuff. Family Switch may have been far from a certified genre classic that joined the ranks of 13 Going on 30 and some others like the Lindsay Lohan and Jamie Lee Curtis-starred Freaky Friday. But this movie remains enjoyable, thanks to the better-than-expected cast and McG’s genre know-how direction.
Family Switch is currently streaming on Netflix.