A bad experiment gone worse releases a mist over a small town, and … viola! A kid’s wish comes true and parents and kids do a switcheroo: Parents act like little kids and kids take on the attitudes and behaviors of their parents. How this works with adults who aren’t parents is one of many questions that severely test the standards of cinematic “suspension of disbelief.” However, the thesis of Opposite Day, released by Anchor Bay for home entertainment on DVD, is sure to enchant kids eight to 13, who typically feel their parents give them too many rules and too little of their time. The good news for parents is that this fantasy ride comes with a moral: It’s tough being a grown-up and kids should appreciate their parents.
Opening scenes in an experimental laboratory introduce the viewer to a harried scientist (French Stewart) and a device with the potential to make an adult regress to childishness. With an abrupt change, the camera then swings through a small town, giving a quick visual overview of the people — and their personalities — who populate it, finally coming to rest in a schoolyard. “If kids ran the world, it would be so much better,” says one boy.
Sammy Benson (Billy Unger), the boy who speaks these prophetic words, and his sister Carla (Ariel Winter) leave town for a vacation with their grandparents. Tucking the children into bed, Grandma Benson (Renée Taylor) points to a night sky ablaze with twinkling lights and says of one of them, “Oh look, it’s the first star” (another test of the viewer’s ability to suspend disbelief — but, to be fair, there is one star considerably larger than the others that she might be pointing to, and, of course, there needs to be a wishing star to move the plot forward).
Sammy jumps on the opportunity. “I wish that kids ruled the world.”
Meanwhile, the harried scientist has been goaded by the lab’s director to show breakthroughs of some sort that could be used to make a buck, and he puts his own son into a device he’s been working on to enable parents to understand their babies’ talk. But uh oh — that’s the device we already saw turn a mature chimp infantile.
Understandably upset at his father for putting him at risk, Chaz (Dylan Cash), the scientist’s son, rampages through the lab, pulling wires to disable the device, which then malfunctions and releases the malignant mist that turns things “opposite” throughout the town.
When Grandma and Grandpa Benson (Dick Van Patten) bring Sammy and Carla home, they are mystified to see kids in their parents’ work clothes (resized to perfectly fit their smaller bodies — a seeming anomaly that is addressed in short order) doing their jobs and mouthing their sayings, while the adults (who, fortunately, get to stay in clothes that fit) play hopscotch and act out childishly. Of the predictable sight gags that fill the bulk of the movie’s 81 minutes, some are funny, some start funny but drag on too long, and some — like one kid ad exec who too perfectly mimics her adult counterpart — are simply disturbing.
To Sammy, the situation is perfect — or would be if only a kid-cop hadn’t arrested his grandparents for infractions that began with Grandpa Benson being “too young” to drive a car. And then, it doesn’t stay fun for long. “Being in charge is hard work,” Sammy admits after a day of taking care of his childish parents (Pauly Shore and Colleen Crabtree).
Sammy and Carla learn about what happened at the lab, realize it wasn’t Sammy’s wish upon the star that caused the madness, and head over to the lab to make everything back to “right” again. Chase scenes and fight scenes ensue, with the two youngsters taking on the lab’s security forces (Carla) and a gang of Ninjas (Sammy) set on them by friend-turned-evil Chaz.
But Sammy and Carla can’t make things normal again without scientific know-how. Will Chaz agree to help them? “We can take care of our parents better than they could take care of us,” Chaz tells them. To which Carla argues, “Parents look after us unconditionally.” Chaz, of course, has recent reason to question that, but the writers instead hark back to an early scene in which Chaz tells of his dad’s love and expresses only a wish that they had more time together. Sammy throws in the clincher: “Why rush growing up?”
With only seconds to go, they try to stop the attack Chaz had set in motion that would take the phenomenon global, and also try to undo the effect in their own town.
Outtakes during the closing credits share some of the silly moments on set during filming, giving a glimpse into the playful “child” in cast members old and young.