Oh sure, you got your body-switch movies (The Hit Girl, Freaky Friday, 17 Again), but what about where an adult becomes a kid? Okay, so there’s Big and 13 Going On 30. Writer/director Tina Gordon (who just also wrote that dismal What Women Want) gives us an updated version on the old classic body switch tale.
Getting bullied in school sucks. Just ask 13-year-old Jordan Sanders (Marsai Martin) who, after a devastating talent show defeat, grows up to be acerbic Jordan Sanders (Regina King), owner of JSI, a super tech company that invented the Home Girl, an Alexa-ish device. BUT! Her company is facing serious trouble if they don’t come up with a new product and show it to Connor (Mikey Day), their major client. Problem is, Jordan is a tyrannical, self-absorbed, know-it-all meanie that treats her employees like crap, especially her long-suffering assistant, April (Issa Rae). But that all changes one afternoon when a kid with a toy wand (I think she’s a Slytherin) puts a curse on Jordan wishing that she was ‘little again’.
Well, faster than you can say, “Plot device”, Jordan wakes up the next morning as, you guessed it, her 13-year-old self again (Martin), complete with glasses and a messed-up giant Afro. Yikes! Panicking, she tells April, who can’t believe this freaky Friday experience. Worse yet, a children’s social worker (Rachel Dratch in a cameo) informs “Aunt” April that young Jordan better enroll in school… or else! So while perplexed and nervous April is trying to run the company AND come up with a new app to save the business, little Jordan is gritting her teeth and forced back to the very school where she was humiliated decades ago. She meets a very handsome teacher (Justin Hartley), the requisite school ‘mean girl’ (Eva Carlton), and the school losers whom she connects with.
While April is trying to find that Hogwarts kid again to reverse the spell, hijinks ensue with April pretending to be Jordan’s aunt, and Jordan pretending to be a kid in school and giving sage (??) advice to a bunch of middle-schoolers who really should be looking elsewhere for help. Oh. The. Hilarity. And just like you might imagine, in the process of all this zaniness, timid April grows a backbone, Jordan learns to be nice (Scrooge, anyone?), and yadda-yadda-yadda. Screenwriters Tracey Gordon (Girls Trip) and director Tina Gordon wrote a very, very simple, predictable, generic story that is filled with every conceivable cliché and trope you can imagine. And let’s not even get into all the elephant-sized plot holes that you can’t shrug off either.
But I can forgive a remedial, trite story with poor direction if the acting is good, and by golly, it has that. Regina King is over-the-top nuts as the adult Jordan, and Issa Rae has fun as the ditzy man-hungry assistant. Hartley even brings a loopy performance to his small role as the smokin’ hot teacher, but the REAL star of the movie, hands down, is Marsai Martin. Not only does she steal every scene she’s in, but this kid (okay, she’s really 14) runs rings around her adult counterparts. Easily she’s the best part of this ho-hum movie.
Not Disney-cute like Hanna Montana, not old-soul like Freddie Highmore, Martin has a sharpness and quick-wit attitude that makes her a force to be reckoned with. I found myself LOL at her bits in spite of the corniness of the script. When someone can do THAT, they move into pro-territory. I confess I haven’t watched her on TV’s Black-ish where she’s best known for, but I really hope she comes back to film again… but in a better movie!
Never heard of this movie? I’m not surprised. This was one of those “blink-and-you’ll-miss-it” movies that came and went in the theaters so fast it gave people whiplash. Aimed squarely at kids, this completely ridiculous piece of fluff is about as silly and dumb as you can get, but does have a certain charm about it.
Behold Dr. Godfrey Larrabee (French Stewart), a really strange scientist whose work includes jet-pack pigeons, self-punching boxing gloves, and his greatest invention yet, the Demistifier! A bizarre contraption where adults would be able to understand a baby’s gibberish after being sprayed with some weird chemical. Naturally, his machine goes terrible wrong, thanks to his young rebellious son, Chaz (Dylan Cash), and the entire local town gets ‘demistified’ with a chemical cloud. Result? All the kids now think they’re adults and vice-versa! That’s right! 8-year-olds are now driving cars, arresting people as cops, going to work, etc. while adults are merrily skipping to off to school and playing hop-scotch.
BUT! None of this switcheroo happens to the family Benson, specifically young brother & sister, Sammy & Carla (Billy Unger & Ariel Winter) and their grand-parents, (Renee Taylor & Dick Van Patten) since they were conveniently out-of-town. However, while Sammy & Carla’s parents (Pauley Shore & Colleen Crabtree) now think they’re kids, Sammy is having the time of his life ordering his parents around like. . .well, a parent! Carla, on the other hand, doesn’t like the whole situation, especially when she’s forced to go to her mom’s work and fill in for her. Oh, and the grand-parents? They’re rotting in jail because of a traffic ticket!
Meanwhile, ego-maniacal Chaz, now obsessed by his super-cool invention, plans to spray his ‘demistifier’ everywhere because he wants kids to rule the world! Bwahahahaha!! Will he ever be stopped? Will Sammy & Carla come to the rescue? And what about the grand-parents in the Big House? Yeah, it’s about as stupid as you can imagine and the screenplay by Max Botkin (Show Dogs) feels like it was written by a 10-year-old as a school project. Gargantuan plot holes, storylines that make NO sense whatsoever, and some of worst dialogue ever put on screen!
The director is R. Michael Givens, a full-time camera assistant & photographer who thought he might try his hand at directing, which he did here and a few other super-LOW budget films you never heard of. Lazy, ineffective, and amateurish at best, Givens does what he can with a screen filled with children that either can’t act, over-act, or look directly in the camera! Ariel Winter (who now is on Modern Family) is so Disney perky, perfect, and cutsie that you wanna vomit. Unger (stop looking at the camera!!) fares better, but has that overly-exaggerated Disney cute-kid acting style you see in all their sickening TV shows. Ugh!!
The only saving grace here is legendary Dick Van Patten & Renee Taylor; they’re being arrested and then interrogated in jail is hilarious and the best part of this totally ludicrous 88 minute mess. I supposed for children, they’ll eat it up, as all the action and wild buffoonery is aimed straight at them. An entire town of little kids behaving like adults and adults acting like little kids? That’s the stuff of comedy gold! It’s a shame it was wasted on this piece of celluloid.