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What parents need to know
Parents need to know that The Swap is inspired by a book of the same name and involves a switch of bodies for teen classmates who lament their personal struggles and wish for a break from them. It's bound to entice kids who like the other work of Disney stars Peyton List and Jacob Bertrand. The content is altogether family-friendly, and strong messages about expressing your emotions and honest communication are present throughout. A character's difficult relationship with his father causes strife but is happily resolved in the end. Expect some mild flirting between teens and angst involving a trio of classmates, one of whom manipulates another's feelings for her longtime best friend. This story offers few surprises, but its themes are solid and excellent for families.
What's the story?
What starts as an innocent tit for tat over stresses and struggles lands classmates Ellie O'Brien (Peyton List) and Jake Malloy (Jacob Bertrand) in the challenge of their lives after they inexplicably switch bodies in THE SWAP. Now, instead of fighting for the last spot on the varsity hockey roster, Jake must take Ellie's place in a key rhythmic gymnastics meet and figure out how to patch up her friendship with longtime BFF Sassy (Kiana Madeira). Meanwhile Ellie has to brush up on her hockey skills; keep up with Jake's older brothers, Gunner (Callan Porter) and Stryker (Jesse Bostick); and traverse a tricky relationship with Jake's emotionally distant dad (Darrin Rose), who also happens to be his coach. With a gender gap evident, complex family relationships, and some serious pressure to succeed, Ellie and Jake race the clock to set things right in time to return to their own bodies.
Is it any good?
Though not particularly original in concept, this feel-good movie has strong themes about family relationships, emotional honesty, and self-advocacy. Ironically it takes living each other's lives to inspire Ellie and Jake to make the necessary changes in their own, but in both cases the teens learn to project their needs and express their feelings. In so doing, they address some serious concerns such as the loss of a loved one and coping with abandonment issues. This makes for some heavy scenes and tense encounters, always with a positive result.
Kids will like seeing familiar Disney stars List and Bertrand in these new roles, and no matter how many times it's revisited, the body-swapping plot is always a winner. In this case the gender divide just adds to the fun, setting up plenty of scenes in which Ellie and Jake have funny experiences walking a mile in the other gender's shoes. Though it offers few surprises, The Swap is a fun movie the entire family can watch together, but the more serious themes -- and Jake's testy relationship with his father throughout most of the story -- might need some further explanation for younger kids.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about dealing with difficult emotions, the way Jake and Ellie do in The Swap. Do your kids ever feel overwhelmed by responsibilities or expectations? What outlets do they have for coping with stress?
Kids: You can't literally walk in someone else's shoes, but in what ways can you try to experience another person's life? Why is it important to respect others' experiences? On the other hand, what do you have in common with your friends?
How do the characters exhibit strong communication? What does doing so do for their relationships? Why is it important to express your feelings rather than keeping them to yourself?
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