5 Lessons From Life-Switching Movies

More

From 'Freaky Friday' to 'The Change-Up,' it's a film trope: swap lives to deliver moral messages

the changeup 615.jpg

Universal Pictures

We all want to be somebody. Sometimes, we want to be somebody else. Fiction has long tapped into the universal, if occasional, yearning to inhabit a new life: Shakespeare fixated on mistaken identity and gender-swapping, science fiction explores what happens when humans become more than human, and fairytales offer the promise of trading in rags for riches.

The Change-Up, released Friday, is the latest entry in a long but strange line of transformation fiction that focuses specifically on people trading lives with one another. Even more narrowly, it's a body-swap film, in which the brains of a burnt-out dad (Jason Bateman) and an aimless playboy (Ryan Reynolds) get zapped into each other's heads when lighting strikes a fountain that the two men happen to be peeing in (it's all in the trailer). Think of it as the bromantic version of Freaky Friday, or a supernatural take on The Prince and the Pauper.

Inevitably, films of this sort double as fables, teaching lessons about life, identity, and society. The moral of the story generally breaks down into one of five broad categories; find out what they are—and which films, from 17 Again to The Parent Trap, deliver them—below:

Jump to comments
Presented by

Eleanor Barkhorn & Spencer Kornhaber

Eleanor Barkhorn and Spencer Kornhaber are senior associate editors at The Atlantic.

Get Today's Top Stories in Your Inbox (preview)

Juice Cleanses: The Worst Diet

A doctor tries the ever-popular Master Cleanse. Sort of.


Elsewhere on the web

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register. blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

Juice Cleanses: The Worst Diet

A doctor tries the ever-popular Master Cleanse. Sort of.

Video

Why Did I Study Physics?

Using hand-drawn cartoons to explain an academic passion

Video

What If Emoji Lived Among Us?

A whimsical ad imagines what life would be like if emoji were real.

Video

Living Alone on a Sailboat

"If you think I'm a dirtbag, then you don't understand the lifestyle."

Feature

The Future of Iced Coffee

Are artisan businesses like Blue Bottle doomed to fail when they go mainstream?

Writers

Up
Down

More in Entertainment

Just In