Netflix’s Family Switch may not be perfect, but Jennifer Garner and Emma Myers make it a heartwarming holiday comedy.
As we get closer to the month of December, you will start to see this year’s crop of holiday themed films pop up, whether they are made for streaming or television. Netflix’s newest entry into the holiday film genre is Family Switch, which delivers what it promises for the most part.
Family Switch is based on the 2010 children’s book “Bedtime for Mommy” by Amy Krouse Rosenthal. The story centers on the Walker family, led by matriarch Jess (Jennifer Garner), who is balancing being a working mother to two teens and a baby. Her husband, Bill (Ed Helms), is in a rut and has an escape from his humdrum life. Meanwhile, their daughter CC (Emma Myers) and their oldest son, Wyatt (Brady Noon) just want to focus on a major soccer game and college interview, respectively. Their lives descend into chaos after a cosmic event causes the parents and teenagers to swap bodies days before Christmas.
This narrative separates itself from other Netflix originals right off the bat by taking the body switch concept that you have seen before and using it in a way that while familiar, has not really been done outside of sitcom television shows. Unlike whatever version of Freaky Friday you prefer, you have multiple family members swapping bodies and that allows for a couple of compelling scenarios and various hijinks. The family element also gives the story a fair bit of heart as the parents and teenagers both realize that neither of them had it as easy as they thought.
A lot of that heart comes from the arcs of Jess and CC, with all due respect to Bill and Wyatt. Viewers will find that the mother and daughter pairing is more interesting because frankly it not only feels like we spend more time with them as they deal with their respective problems (for CC, it is the soccer game and Jess is attempting to earn a big promotion) but we get to see their bond grow in an authentic way. Throughout the film, Jess and CC are together in each other’s bodies and while they naturally butt heads to begin with and encounter a fair amount of chaos, they are learning about what their respective lives are like. As a result, any character development that we see with them feels earned rather than added on because the creative team realized that they needed to tie a bow on everything.
Jennifer Garner and Emma Myers are also fabulous as Jess/CC and CC/Jess, with each capturing the mother/daughter relationship but also managing somehow to encapsulate what it is like to be a teenager in the body of an adult and vice versa. Garner must capture teenage energy with her performance and does that in a way that I am sure was just as fun for her on set as it was to watch. Myers on the other hand is challenged with portraying a teenager with the mind of an adult. She does just that in a way that surprised me, making CC and Jess as CC distinct from each other without it heading into an unrealistic territory.
Garner and Myers have a dynamic in Family Switch that one could compare to Jamie Lee Curtis and Lindsay Lohan in Freaky Friday (2003). Both seem to be having a joyful time but can bring that to a halt for the emotional beats of the narrative. The jokes that this pairing had because of their body swap were also more memorable. Yes, there are jokes with Jess and CC that are clearly aimed at kids for cheap laughs, but darn it, even they got me. If Garner and Myers are not on top of their game, not only does this narrative lose the bit of heart it has, but the comedy would also not work. Thankfully, they handle what they are given and elevate a relationship that like the rest of the script, is a little cliché at points, into something that is adorable.
Ed Helms and Brady Noon, like Jennifer and Emma, seem to be having an infectious amount of fun as Bill/Wyatt and Wyatt/Bill. They also manage to sell the body swap between their characters well, but the narrative really leans into the predictably when it comes to this duo. Perhaps that is because it will feel to audiences like more effort was placed into Jess and CC than Bill and Wyatt. When we are nearly an hour in, it feels like the writers said “Oh, we need to show the father and son before the family can switch back.” While Helms and Noon are solid, their character development seems rushed, and their end points become far more obvious as a result. We should have spent a little more time with Bill and Wyatt for their conclusions to land in a satisfactory way. At least the jokes that both are involved in still hit and provide some distraction from the issues with their storylines.
The writers also try to shoehorn a few comedic moments with the teens in their parents’ bodies which could have been left out in favor of strengthening Bill and Wyatt’s arcs. Then you have a piece of the puzzle that helps make Family Switch unique and is baffling at the same time. I am of course talking about the baby of the Walker family, Miles (portrayed by Lincoln and Theodore Sykes) and the fact that he body swaps with their dog, Pickles. Yes, it provides something different, but it also is not particularly funny. The jokes with Miles and Pickles are very lowbrow, and the CGI used on baby Miles is worse than what was used in Son of the Mask (2005). There is not a single moment where you will be convinced that you are watching a real baby with the mind of a dog. While I cannot be certain just how much of the duo of Miles and Pickles post swap was animated using CGI, both look laughably fake. There is an irony in the fact that the writers have several jokes centered around the baby and the dog in Family Switch and audiences will just end up laughing at the obvious cheap CGI instead of said jokes.
This is a story, for all its predictability and faults, that still manages to provide audiences with a sprinkle of holiday cheer. If you watch it with children, they will likely love it as much as I loved rewatching 2003’s Freaky Friday. Thankfully, there are jokes that are aimed at both teens and adults to keep them entertained as well. The arcs of CC and Jess should be able to tug at audience’s heartstrings because Jennifer Garner and Emma Myers are that good together and individually. These characters and actors help sell a bond that will leave you feeling warm and fuzzy inside.
While this film has flaws, particularly when the story hits its midway point and becomes far too predictable. There is also the fact that certain jokes will fall flat on their face. Having talent like Jennifer Garner and Emma Myers in front of the camera will improve anything though and turns Family Switch into a cute addition to the endless Christmas films out there.
Family Switch will be streaming on Netflix from November 30, 2023.