Cinerama: Vice Versa

Posted: September 12, 2009 in Cinerama

Vice Versa

By Mike Derderian

A teenager went into a supermarket and stood apposite the soda refrigerator. Opened the first can but nothing happened except a faint fizz. He opened the second, third, fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh but still nothing happened.

The storeowner was shocked by the boy’s behavior and walked towards the boy, who was standing in the middle of a puddle of spilled soda and bruised cans. “What do you think you are doing?” the man irritably shouted.

The boy looked indifferently at the angry middle-aged man and said, “I’m looking for Shakira! I saw the ad on television but nothing happened with me so far.”

How many of us trust what they see on television, read in the newspapers or hear on the radio? No not the news—that’s another story—but commercials and ads.

For instance we all hear how different voices buzz on the airwaves of different radio stations announcing that their station is the best place for music. “You are listening to the number one hit station in town.” Says who? Well, technically speaking, their marketing managers.

The other day, I was so infuriated when I found out that a Jordanian local newspaper believe they can trick readers, by posting a fishy picture as a marketing ploy. Leafing through the newspaper, I stumbled, at the last page, on a photo of a “tourist” reading a daily that is affiliated with the newspaper’s publishing establishment.

The “clever” photographer and “brilliant” marketing manager, who were behind this publicity stunt didn’t realize that when holding a folded newspaper with its name facing the camera upright, its back page is always flipped upside down. Whatever that “tourist” was reading he was reading it upside down.

My guess was that the daily was either promoting a new page entitled “for the vice-versa-upside-down-reading-challenged individuals” or they were simply bamboozling us. It is one thing to advertise a product and another to cheat people by telling them that your product is the best using a dirty trick. If you want to cheat try to at least do it right.

If you reached this far, congratulations, you won a dinner with someone. Now let us discuss Brian Gilbert’s 1988 Vice Versa that starred Judge Reinhold and Fred Savage. A very long time ago!

Father and son Marshall Seymour (Reinhold) and Charlie Seymour (Savage) are not exactly eye to eye when it comes to life, having a good time and matters of the heart. Then again show me a father and son who are.

Vice Versa also stars Corinne Bohrer, Swoosie Kurtz (Alex from Sisters), David Proval (Richie Aprile from The Sopranos), Richard Kind (Paul Lassiter from Spin City) and Jane Kaczmarek (Lois from Malcolm in the Middle).

Marshall is divorced and Charlie is his son… duh. They are stuck together for a few weeks because Charlie’s mom Robyn (Kaczmarek) is too busy to look after him. They are not exactly happy about it and things won’t get any better.

Now, having to drag a boy around, clean up his mess and looking after his pet frog that spends most of its time in the bathroom sink isn’t exactly fun time for an alpha male like Marshall, who got used to being single with no strings attached.

So what’s the catch in Vice Versa? Comedy. Its modus operandi is derived from the much popular and overused body-switching recipe, where two characters one preferably old and the other young end up switching bodies.

How can one perform a body switching experience? We usually need two elements to make it work: A wish and a mystical supernatural religious artifact. Please note there are two other elements: A mad scientist and a lab, where a scientific experience is programmed to go haywire. Due to bad side effects most directors prefer using the first two elements.

Marshall and Charlie end up switching bodies, when a priceless silver and gold-coated skeleton creates a supernatural vortex. Its magic is triggered by mistake when both father and son wished if they were able to switch roles touched it.

Savage, who was at the height of his screen cuteness at the time this movie was made, is best remembered for his role as Kevin Arnold in the 1988-1993 hit television series The Wonder Years. If you don’t remember that show, then you might remember him as Number Three, who had a bad case of mole-on-face, in the 2002 shameless James Bond spoof Austin Powers in Goldmember.

Kurtz and Proval played the roles of two villainous smugglers dying to put their hands on the magical skeleton by any means possible. They were basically two stooges, who ended up having more than they have bargained for.

Any comedy void of romance is like a fish in a bowl filled with cold water and thrown in a bathtub filled with boiling water. It generates laughs on the expense of a fumbling child trapped in a man’s body desperately trying to fend off the wooing of an older woman—Sam (Bohrer), Marshall’s attractive girlfriend.

One of Hollywood’s underrated comedic talents Reinhold was simply hilarious in this 98-minute comedy. He brilliantly managed to capture and transmit enough childish mannerism to convince anyone that his 6-foot tall body was occupied by an 11-year old boy. The same goes for Savage.

Must-see-scenes: the opening scene when the bejeweled sacred skeleton is retrieved from an ancient temple; the body-switching scene, when Charlie, who is now trapped in Marshall’s body, panics and starts to cry and the rock concert that Charlie (in Marshall’s body) conducts at his father’s department store with the help of a teenage customer and a frantic salesman.

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