Invisible Sister (2015), The Swap (2016)

Invisible Sister (2015), The Swap (2016)

As I mentioned after watching the 2018 Freaky Friday DCOM, I’ve seen all four of Disney’s Freaky Friday films — 1976, 1995, 2003, and 2018. There are other body-swapping DCOMs. Then there are DCOMs without body-swapping where a character still has to physically step into someone else’s life. The latter scenario is the premise for Invisible Sister, which already gets bonus points because it opens with a Superchick song (“This is the Time”). The film was directed by Paul Hoen and was inspired by My Invisible Sister, a book by Beatrice Colin and Sara Pinto. Sisters Cleo (Rowan Blanchard) and Molly (Paris Berelc) are very different. Cleo is obviously the invisible sister in the beginning of the film. Her opening monologue reads, in part: “Those bright shiny objects, they soak up all the attention. While at the same time, the invisible objects right under our noses don’t. That’s just the way things are. We can’t change it, no matter how much we might want to. At least that’s what I thought.”

invisible sister movie poster

While Cleo wears a goth-chic look and is only noticed when people make fun of her, Molly dons a preppy pink sweater and hangs with the cool kids to get fro-yo. She tries to include her sister by telling her the fro-yo outing will be “awesome city” and “the bomb.” Cleo likes to do her own thing. Her science teacher Mr. Perkins (Alex Désert) is the catalyst for a role reversal in the film. He doesn’t think Cleo is applying herself, so he makes her turn gunk into a crystal for her science experiment and tells her it will count for half her grade. I’m not sure why the other kids are allowed to coast by and she can’t, but that’s the way it is, apparently.

Karan Brar plays Cleo’s best friend George. His character reminds me a little bit of Cyrus from Andi Mack. Cleo and Molly’s parents appear briefly before they go out of town for Halloween weekend. This movie is low-key Halloween, by the way. Production designer Mark Hofeling has the most gorgeous fall decorations everywhere. Uniquely, this DCOM was both set and filmed in New Orleans. The upcoming Halloween dance is appropriately called “Romp the Swamp.” Before the parents leave their daughters, the mom says there can have protein shakes “if you run out of food.” Protein shakes? If you run out of food? What??? These protein-loving parents obviously favor Molly, a lacrosse star, and barely even notice Cleo. While working on her science experiment, Cleo accidentally creates an invisibility potion for a moth. The moth flies away but returns and flies into Molly’s drink, turning her into the invisible sister. So the role reversal does not involve Cleo or Molly actually switching bodies.

Instead, Molly says she cannot be absent from school due to lacrosse. Remembering that it’s Halloween, she has Cleo pretend to be her, wearing a Dorothy costume from The Wizard of Oz and a mask to cover her face. Now Cleo has to go to school as her popular sister. (This is not totally believable. Even as “Mardi Gras Dorothy,” Rowan Blanchard still looks like Rowan Blanchard.) Invisible Molly comes to school anyway. While her boyfriend is pooping, Molly steals his giant bear costume and wears that so that she can pretend to be Cleo in front of her sister’s crush. This actually helps Cleo in the end. There is danger of Molly’s invisibility becoming permanent, unless the kids can find an antidote for the moth juice before midnight. Yep, midnight on Halloween. Classic Disney Channel. While chasing down the moth that started this whole thing, Molly gets mad at Cleo for her science experiment and for being sarcastic and judgmental. Cleo apologizes and says, “It’s just not easy being your sister. You’ve got this thing, this light. Everyone is drawn to you, and it’s hard sometimes ‘cause the truth is, that I’ve always wanted to have that. And when I didn’t, it was much easier to blame you for feeling invisible. So I pushed you away, and everything away. I should have come for froyo.” The sisters reconcile, and Molly catches the moth. Eventually, during the Halloween dance, Cleo is able to make Molly visible. Cleo’s teacher invites her to give a presentation at the New Orleans Association of Applied Scientists. That one really requires suspension of disbelief.

Jacob Bertrand and Peyton List in The Swap

A couple weeks after watching Invisible Sister, I viewed Peyton List and Jacob Bertrand in The Swap. This film was promoted as part of “Monstober” in 2016, but it has absolutely nothing to do with Halloween. It’s still a nice fall movie, with ice hockey being a somewhat important part of the story. Like Invisible Sister, The Swap is really about relationships between family members. Ellie O’Brien (List) has been ignored by her father since he left her and her mom. Jack Malloy (Bertrand) has dealt with a harsh, emotionally unavailable dad since his mother died. Jack’s father is also the high school hockey coach and is extremely strict with his son’s practice schedule. Ellie is on the school’s rhythmic gymnastics team and has lots of support from her spirulina-loving hot yoga-teaching mom. While at the nurse’s office complaining about their lives, Ellie and Jack wish via text that they could switch places, and it happens. Guess who the school nurse is. It’s the mom from Full-Court Miracle and Cadet Kelly!!! There’s also a fun foe-turned-friend named Porter, who starts out as a bully but finds his calling in STEM club.

This film, directed by Jay Karas, was based on an eponymous book by Megan Shull. It’s very 2010s. Lots of texting bubbles on the screen. “Totes,” “amazeballs,” and a couple phrases I’ve never heard of, including “dude-a-lude” and “dung brains.” Ellie and Jack somehow put all their inner power into their cell phones and must use those to switch back. Ellie, in Jack’s body, ultimately gets Jack’s dad and brothers to open up about losing his mom. His dad finally listens when Jack says he feels like dad doesn’t love him. Yeah coach, pretty rough to hear your dad tell you that “boys don’t cry” anytime you get upset. Jack, in Ellie’s body, learns that Ellie has been using her dad’s old flip phone, and he is about to disconnect her because he wants a plan with his new family. That’s sad. While dealing with all these emotions and trying to help each other through the swap, Jack and Ellie become good friends, teaching each other their respective sports and trying to better understand the other friends they hang out with.

In addition to the stuff with her dad, Ellie is dealing with her BFF no longer wanting to be friends. “You’re just not the kind of friend that’s bestie for me anymore,” this girl says. Rude! Ellie handles it well. She finds a new, better friend and cordially tells the old one that they’ve had a good run and it’s okay to move on. That would have been nice to know in high school. Another surprisingly real moment is when the high school boys sit around and rate girls. I’m surprised to find this in a 2016 DCOM. As Jack, Ellie discourages the guys from reducing women to numbers. In another homage to Cadet Kelly, Jack (in Ellie’s body) puts paint in a mean girl’s hair, since this chick stole her BFF. Jack (as Ellie) also teaches her peers a cool new dance at a party. Intentional or not, it’s a nice throwback to Twoie from The Other Me. One of the saddest moments in the whole movie is when the boys’ hockey team honors Jack’s deceased mom with a plaque on a chair in the stadium: “Linda Malloy, Heaven’s #1 hockey mom.” Of course, Ellie and Jack are able to switch back, and this whole swap has helped them open up about how they feel. Their parents get together at the end. DCOMs contain multitudes, and I’m glad I watched this one.

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