Viewers who stumble onto the disarmingly clever "Wonderful World of Disney" entry "A Saintly Switch" might be excused for greeting it with diminished expectations. Here, after all, is yet another of those "Trading Places"/"Freaky Friday"-styled personality swap concepts.
Viewers who stumble onto the disarmingly clever “Wonderful World of Disney” entry “A Saintly Switch” might be excused for greeting it with diminished expectations. Here, after all, is yet another of those “Trading Places”/”Freaky Friday”-styled personality swap concepts.
Yet it turns out there was life left in the tired gimmick after all in a family flick that brings it a fresh perspective. It also doesn’t hurt to have near-perfect chemistry fueling the energetic performances of David Alan Grier and Vivica A. Fox in the leads and a fella named Peter Bogdanovich directing with confidence and flair. “A Saintly Switch” makes for a charmingly entertaining two hours.
The gambit this time around finds a bickering married couple approaching a fork in the marital road. Grier, the “In Living Color” alumnus, is Dan Anderson, a washed-up NFL quarterback being given one last shot at glory thanks to a trade to the New Orleans Saints (OK, maybe not glory exactly).
His wife Sara (Fox, of “ID4”) is growing increasingly irritated by Dan’s foundering priorities and sudden apathy toward their 11-year-old tomboy daughter Annette (Shadia Simmons) and 10-year-old son Clarke (Scott Owen Cumberbatch).
Annette and Clarke are worried about mom and dad and what’s going to become of their unraveling union. Then the kids learn from their eccentric neighbor Fanny Moye (Rue McClanahan) that the creaky mansion the family just moved into was once inhabited by a sorceress who created potions that would do all sorts of kinky things to people.
Quicker than you can say, “Hey, isn’t that kinda derived from ‘The Parent Trap’?,” the kids — who are never allowed to forget that they’re kids in Haris Orkin’s inspired teleplay — concoct something that makes their parents swap personalities, to great comic effect. Dan, the football star, suddenly becomes taken with knitting and overly concerned with the plight of female sportswriters in the locker room. Sara is a football genius who likes to slap everyone five and keep her feelings on a tight leash.
It’s all very silly stuff. And the gender stereotypes flow fast and furious throughout, as do the sometimes heavily layered points about the need to walk a mile in someone’s moccasins before qualifying to judge them — particularly in the men-are-from-Mars, women-are-from-Venus world of marriage. Yes, we all need to appreciate and understand each other a lot more, gosh darn it. It’s what good human beings do. At least on TV.
Truisms and all, however, there is so much to like about the genuinely canny show that all of the other stuff sounds nitpicky and harsh. Under Bogdanovich’s sure hand, this is a stylish fantasy that leaves you with a smile. That’s more than sufficient for a Sunday night.
Tech credits are tops.