Family Switch

  • 09 Dec - 15 Dec, 2023
  • Mag The Weekly
  • Reviews

The most ideal movie to watch with family over the holidays is one everyone can love – one broadly compelling enough to convince everyone from disaffected tweens to grumpy grandparents to set aside their drama and come together in mutual awe. Barring that, the second most ideal movie to watch with family might just be one no one can truly hate.

The body-swap comedy isn’t good so much as it is completely and totally innocuous. Its characters are drawn in the broadest of strokes and the plot points unfold along creakily predictable beats, but it’s too blandly sweet to be irritating or offensive. If you’re just looking to fill a movie-shaped hole in your holiday plans, that might make it passable enough.

Mom Jess (Jennifer Garner) is a hotshot architect on the verge of making partner at her big firm. Dad Bill (Ed Helms) is a rock musician-turned-cool- band-teacher. Seventeen-year-old CC (Emma Myers) is such a gifted soccer player that she’s got the U.S. national team in her sights, and Wyatt (Brady Noon) is such a STEM whiz that he’s applying for early acceptance to Yale as a ninth-grader.

Despite all those blessings, they’re beset by oh-so-relatable generational clashes. Jess and messy CC butt heads over the latter’s career plans. Extroverted Bill and nerdy Wyatt have so little in common that Bill jokes about not being Wyatt’s real father. It’ll take a miracle to resolve these seemingly minor squabbles, apparently, and that’s exactly what they get. Just before Jess’ big presentation, CC’s big game, Wyatt’s big college interview and Bill’s big performance with his band Dad or Alive (Weezer cameo as his bandmates), the Walkers swap bodies through some unexplained magic that somehow involves an Uber driver played by Rita Moreno.

It should be an appealingly high-stakes premise, but Family Switch makes its anodyne sensibility clear long before any of the mystical stuff even occurs. In the first few minutes of the movie, Bill snags part of a candy-cane costume on a Christmas tree, slips on the puddle of dog urine under his feet and takes the whole tree down with him as he topples. Despite Helms’ committed physicality, there’s a rote quality to the entire pratfall. It feels less like a real joke than the outline of one.

Once the characters do swap bodies, the fun of seeing them trade places is somewhat undermined by a script. The younger leads at least have the advantage of aping performers we’re familiar with already, and Myers in particular nails Garner’s supermom vibe. By contrast, Garner and Helms are game for anything but all their enthusiastic mugging can’t mask the fact that CC and Wyatt aren’t much more than a stereotypical surly teen and a stereotypical geek.

Needless to say, the characters around the Walkers fare no better. Many of these bit roles are filled by vivid comic talents like Paul Scheer, Pete Holmes and Xosha Roquemore, but even they struggle to make much of an impression in such one-dimensional parts. This is one of those movies in which none of the supporting figures seem to have anything going on beyond whatever the main characters need from them at any given moment – whether it’s the bully (Cyrus Arnold) whose feelings about Wyatt pivot seemingly out of nowhere, or the coworker (Ilia Isorelys Paulino) who has nothing better to do than reassure Jess (really CC) that she really is an incredible mother.