This is a fun comedy. It hits all the right notes for a very tired “soul-switching” genre that tended to dominate in the late-80s/early-90s. The difference is “18 Again” is the best of that genre hands-down. “Big” is a better movie, but that isn’t soul-switching as much as a “child/grownup” genre. Match “18 Again” against other soul-switchers like “Dream A Little Dream”, “Vice Versa”, “Freaky Friday”, or the horrific “Like Father, Like Son” from the same era – and you’ll see a story with a heart unlike the others. In modern terms, this movie is closest to “17 Again” – although again, that isn’t soul-switching as much as “child/grownup”. However, I would take “18 Again” over “17 Again” simply for two reasons: Charlie Schlatter’s uncanny physical mimicking – and the comedy talents of George Burns.
Charlie Schlatter is absolutely PERFECT as both David/Jack. His lovable-but-worthless “deer in the headlights” college freshman vs. that of his world-wise, confident grandfather, played by the irrepressible George Burns. The story twists with young David going through a series of let-downs that only a college freshman could experience with all the put-downs and disappointments we could expect. Enter his amazingly spontaneous and funny grandfather, Jack. Once Jack’s soul enters David, we see all the confidence David needed to solve so many of his difficult situations.
The supporting cast is fine, if not a bit caricatured. However, watching Burns “inhabit” Schlatter’s 18-year-old body is a joy. Schlatter should be teaching young actors/actresses on how to mimic body movements. He is simply that mesmerizing once Jack is “inside” him. It’s a hoot. The part where “young” Jack tells his best friend, Charlie (Red Buttons) who he really is… It’s a gem of a scene. Two legendary comedians using the body of a very capable young actor to convey joy and happiness from a bygone era… Loved it.
This is not a classic college comedy like “Animal House”, “Revenge of the Nerds” or anything like that. But as a feel-good, happy little story that is well worth watching simply to watch George Burns at his best as the old gent with a wicked wit, this is a good one.
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