Family Switch Review

Ed Helms and Jennifer Garner cannot save McG’s formulaic and unfunny Christmas-themed body swap comedy.

Plot: Jess and Bill Walker are doing their best to keep their family connected as their children grow older, more independent, and more distant. When a chance encounter with an astrological reader causes the family to wake up to a full body switch, on the morning of the most important day of each of their lives, can the Walkers unite to land a promotion, college interview, record deal and soccer tryout?

Review: In the sub-genre of body swap movies, very few films stand out as quality films. The concept itself is ridiculous and silly and tends to aim more toward family-friendly fare like Freaky Friday and 13 Going On 30. Still, even those movies benefitted from some personality and edge that helped them earn some originality, a quality sorely lacking in Netflix’s new Christmas-themed comedy Family Switch. Everything you need to know about this movie is showcased in the trailer, telling you just how little depth there is to the latest Netflix original production. Even with a solid ensemble cast led by Ed Helms and Jennifer Garner, Family Switch does not play as much more than a formulaic comedy forced into a holiday setting to try and elicit additional viewers who would otherwise overlook this cliche-ridden and painfully unfunny comedy.

Family Switch review

Like many body-switch comedies, Family Switch opens with The Walker Family introducing their Type A personality clashes with their family members and their lives. Jess (Jennifer Garner) works at an architectural firm, rigidly follows schedules and protocols, and is a helicopter parent to her kids. Bill (Ed Helms) is a music teacher who plays in a cover band, restores a Corvette, and years for the halcyon days of his youth. The eldest daughter, CC (Wednesday’s Emma Myers), is a star soccer player, and her brother Wyatt (Brady Noom) is a genius looking to skip three grades and head right to Yale. All four see each of their family members as having it easy, which piques fortune-teller Angelica (Rita Moreno) as the family visits the planetarium during a rare celestial alignment and breaks the telescope. The next morning, the family, as well as young infant brother Miles and their dog, Pickles, awaken to find they have swapped with each other. Returning to the planetarium, Angelica informs them to switch back and that they must fix what is broken.

Over the next hour-and-a-half, the Walkers are forced to live the lives of the parent or child they swapped with and learn valuable lessons about how their partner lives. CC must present her mother’s important project while dealing with a troublesome coworker (Paul Scheer). Bill must endure Wyatt’s interview for Yale while navigating a school bully and the girl of his dreams, Ariana (Vanessa Carrasco). Jess has to play in CC’s soccer championship before a scout for the national team, and Wyatt has to play in his dad’s band, Dad or Alive, for a spot in a television competition. As you would expect, nothing goes right, and it is a disaster for everyone, further deepening the rift between the family members as they try to figure out how to get back into their own bodies. There are plenty of opportunities for funny predicaments for everyone, including lactose intolerance farts, the baby and dog acting like one another via horrendous CGI, and even a pair of incest jokes that will make everyone watching uncomfortable.

The movie starts so quickly and with so little build-up that it is hard to fall into a rhythm with the characters. Ed Helms is playing an “Ed Helms”-type role, while Jennifer Garner plays the same mom role she has been relegated to in more than half of her last dozen movies. Emma Myers and Brady Noom are solid as the kids but do not bring anything unique to their characters that sets them apart from cliche teens in any number of family flicks. Many supporting players in this film appear in thankless roles that do nothing but fill up running time. Matthias Schweighofer portrays a pointless dog/babysitter just to allow a couple of jokes to work, while Rita Moreno’s character is nothing more than a crutch to move the plot along. Comedians like Fortune Feimster, Pete Holmes, Howie Mandel, and King Bach feel afterthoughts, while Weezer are Bill’s bandmates in a wasted cameo.

My biggest problem with Family Switch is that the stakes never feel real. At no point does the challenge of being in each other’s lives feel like it will have any impact, and the fact that everything works out neatly, in the end, flies in the face of how catastrophically everything goes wrong. This may be because Family Switch is based on a thirty-two-page storybook called Bedtime for Mommy by Amy Krouse Rosenthal. That story about a mother acting like a baby to convince her daughter to go to bed is a very loose inspiration for screenwriters Adam Sztykiel (Black Adam, Rampage) and Victoria Strouse. The script is so thinly written and lacking in any sort of energy that it cannot figure out if it wants to be heartwarming, silly, funny, or meaningful. Director McG, who marks his fourth Netflix feature with Family Switch, lacks any of the edge or visual style he brought to Charlie’s Angels or The Babysitter films. Family Switch is as vanilla a movie as you can get and one that is woefully unfunny to boot.

Family Switch review

Family Switch is a mercifully short ninety-minute movie that wastes all the talent involved by giving them a stupid plot and even stupider decisions. Jennifer Garner apes her fan-favorite 13 Going on 30 performance in a watered-down replica that lacks that movie’s charm and wit. Ed Helms never gets to do what he does best, and none of the four main family members do a very good job of emulating their partner character’s mannerisms or movements. Family Switch could have been an edgy and funny movie or a wholesome family comedy, but instead, it opts to be a forced Christmas-theme flick that never finds the right tone or style. The most positive thing I can say about Family Switch is that it at least doesn’t overstay its welcome by half an hour like most Netflix originals, but it is still not very good at all.

Family Switch




About the Author

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Alex Maidy has been a editor, columnist, and critic since 2012. A Rotten Tomatoes-approved critic and a member of Chicago Indie Critics, Alex has been's primary TV critic and ran columns including Top Ten and The UnPopular Opinion. When not riling up fans with his hot takes, Alex is an avid reader and aspiring novelist.