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15 out of 16 people found the following review useful:

Peter's Whimsy

Author: Gary170459 from Derby, UK
25 February 2007

There's no film quite like Peter Ustinov's Vice Versa, the clever playfulness is constant and yet is never so overpowering as to bore you. I hadn't seen it for nearly 10 years before tonight but remembered most of the excruciatingly erudite and formal dialogue enunciated by the melodramatic caricatures of the ridiculously socially atrophied Victorians perfectly.

Father Roger Livesey and son Anthony Newley (in his 2nd film) make unfortunate hasty wishes holding the stolen mystical Garuda Stone changing their bodies around. The upshot being the young father is sent back to boarding school to astound the natives by the middle aged son who begins to astound his butler and doctor by his sudden propensity for sherbet and ginger ale. Their separate adventures form the film, delightfully and uniquely presented and acted. Favourite bits: The courtroom bursting into The Merry Wives Of Windsor and the swift justice meted out to the duelists because the judge had to get off to Rickmansworth; Reaching for the note on the floor of the school chapel but being startlingly and loudly spotted by headmaster James Robertson Justice - my favourite film of his.

I think it might possibly help to be British or have a working knowledge of the Boys Own Paper and Victorian penny dreadfuls to fully appreciate this, or maybe just keep in mind that this is a fond and gently relentless satire on the genre. In a unique whimsical class of its own, I've always loved this Vice Versa Version but it probably won't appeal to the more serious who prefer sober message to witty inconsequentiality - and of course masochists who would hate all 97 keenly watched minutes.

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13 out of 16 people found the following review useful:

excellent and very watchable

Author: redcustard from London
17 November 2003

Very entertaining - in a silly kind of way. Anthony Newley knocks most other child actors into a cocked hat, and Roger Livesey is very endearing: neither overplay their parts as so often happens in this kind of yarn. If you appreciate light-hearted vintage English comedy you will surely enjoy this one - I thought it superb - but don't watch it if your movies need to be in colour or have relevance to something as it's just a bit of pure fun. This said it holds the attention throughout due to it's fast-paced antics and great characterisations. Hope it's out on DVD somewhere as would love to own a copy.

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11 out of 15 people found the following review useful:

brilliant movie English humour at its best

Author: morrisonm-1 from United States
19 May 2005

English comedy tends to fall into one of two types. The first involves the clever and often risqué use of the English language. The second involves physical or slap-stick humour. The best English comedies successfully combine both types and the 1948 version of Vice Versa is just such a comedy. To see the great Roger Livesey cavorting as a young boy is alone worth the price of admission. It is arguably easier for a young person to act old than it is for an old person to act young, mimicry being easier than regression. To carry either role off is, however, no mean feat. Anthony Newley is brilliant as the young Dick Bultitude imitating his fathers sophisticated and worldly ways. It is also great fun to watch the young Petula Clark years before she became a famous pop star. If you want to watch both the 1988 version of this story starring Judge Reinhold as well as the 1948 version, I would strongly recommend you see the 1988 version first. You will enjoy the 1988 version. The 1948 version of Vice Versa is however the definitive one. After seeing it you will be spoiled for all others.

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6 out of 6 people found the following review useful:

An amazing conflation of cinema and literature

Author: Benoît A. Racine (benoit-3) from Toronto, Ontario, Canada
15 June 2008

Peter Ustinov is a witty literary man. His first love is the theatre, which is a form of literature and he has always tried to bring this love to the cinema. This film is based on a picaresque novel he has made immortal. Its parent-offspring body-swap theme was reprised, pilfered, borrowed and plagiarized in an untold number of similar films (and novels) with titles like "Freaky Friday" (all three versions), "Vice Versa" (1988), "Big" (1988), "18 Again!" (1988), "Like Father Like Son" (1987) and "Dream a Little Dream" (1989). Because of its cast, rhythm and wit, this film owes much to the Ealing comedies and to Powell & Pressburger's "The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp". Everyone in it shines and makes the dialogue sound like it was written by Oscar Wilde on marijuana. Even little Petula Clark bravely holds her own opposite Anthony Newley (who also wrote the music), Roger Livesey and James Robertson Justice, whose blustering personality makes this film a true comedy of hypocrisies. The film is full of audacious set pieces that send up the very concept of Britishness and propriety. Its charm is of course untranslatable in any other language. As a screenwriter and filmmaker of intelligence and invention, Ustinov shows he is easily the equal of René Clair and Sacha Guitry. A must-see.

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3 out of 3 people found the following review useful:

SPOILERS: First is Family Friendly and Funnier than Freaky Friday and Friends

Author: arieliondotcom from United States
15 June 2008

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

This is probably the first of a very long series of the same plot. Switched souls in different bodies, in this case father and son. And the first take is the best, partly because it is set in the VIctorian era which itself is played well for laughs, and for outlandishly ornate dialogue...But best of all for the acting...Peter Ustinov and (to my shock when I read the credits) Anthony Newley as a boy and Petula Clark as a young girl. Knowing that added even another layer to the fun.

I especially liked the thoughtful script which included having the boy who is just coming into puberty and finds himself in an adult body with mustache and all chasing the maid around for a kiss which he wants but isn't sure why and is appropriately confused at both her refusal and his own sudden desires. Very clever and something completely overlooked in later versions.

The ending has a fun twist, too, and made me think that if I were still a young boy I'd be on the lookout for such a magic stone as switched father and son in this film.

A funny first you'll enjoy watching and which is suitable for all ages to enjoy together without embarrassment.

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5 out of 9 people found the following review useful:

Another identity exchange farce...directed by Peter Ustinov...

Author: Neil Doyle from U.S.A.
28 September 2007

In the tradition of films like TURNABOUT and FREAKY Friday, VICE VERSA attaches the theme to a couple of males this time, in a British comedy written and directed by Peter Ustinov that tries too hard to be clever, but succeeds, instead, in being exceedingly foolish.

ANTHONY NEWLEY is a Victorian schoolboy who trades places with his stuffy British father by wishing on a magic stone from India. Newley brings his father's knowledge and stuffiness to the school that he returns to, much to the bewilderment of his classmates and professors. The father, ROGER LIVESEY, adopts childish preferences rather than smoking his favored cigars and confounds his household servants.

You have to be a fan of overly broad, non-subtle British humor to fully enjoy this comedy. Most of it is beyond silly, however delightful the performances are. Especially absurd is the confrontation of battle swords in a duel over a young woman, played for zany humor but somehow missing the mark.

None of it can be taken seriously, so your enjoyment of the story will depend entirely on whether or not you favor this sort of humor. Newley does a decent enough job as the young boy and Livesey seems to be enjoying himself in a comic role, looking and sounding an awful lot like Nigel Bruce behind his scruffy mustache.

Anyone with a sharp eye will notice that so many of the story ingredients are used in FREAKY Friday, but American style.

Too overdone for my taste.

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A Young Anthony Newley in a British Comedy

Author: atlasmb from United States
15 June 2014

We've seen plenty of films where some bit of magic occurs and two characters are forced to trade places. "Vice Versa" is another from that mold. It takes place in Victorian England and involves a stuffy father and his son, who must endure the hardships of a proper boys boarding school run by a humorless martinet with sadistic tendencies.

Though the film is comedy, its pedigree is straight from melodrama. The characters posture and pontificate--intentionally--so that Dudley Do-Right would fit right in. No matter where the story goes, this tone keeps it light.

For someone interested in filmographies, the prominence of young Anthony Newley and Petula Clark in the cast is noteworthy. Newley has to play two roles, in essence--both the young son and the father in the wrong body.

This is not a great film. And much of the story is predictable. Still, it is entertaining and a glimpse at British humor in the late forties.

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3 out of 7 people found the following review useful:

Funny in rare moments

Author: Alex da Silva from United Kingdom
14 June 2009

The unscrupulous Marmaduke (David Hutcheson) gives a stolen jewelled eye to Paul (Roger Livesey) as a gift. Paul summons his son, Dickie (Anthony Newley) for a chat before he is sent off to his new term at boarding school. However, the jewel has the power to allow a wish to come true for whoever holds it. Unwittingly, the stuffy Paul wishes to be young again and in turn, the mischievous Dickie wishes to be older. The rest of the film follows the antics of the now mature Dickie at school and the now immature Paul at home before they swap back at the end of the film and everything that has gone wrong becomes resolved. There is even a nice romantic surprise for Paul at the end.......

What sounds like a fun film is badly let down by OTT British silliness. While there are some funny moments, the truth is that there are far more unfunny moments that leave the viewer thinking "This is tedious". A case in question involves a long, drawn-out duel sequence combined with a court scene that lasts about half an hour and isn't at all funny. Not once did I laugh at the tiresome antics that were played out infront of me. My girlfriend fell asleep during this part after the film had shown early flashes of promise. This meant that she missed the film's only other funny moment after that, namely, when Dickie is travelling back on the train smoking a cigar and throws over some matches to a fellow passenger who asks for a light. The film needed far more of this kind of humour to make it good.

The main characters do well despite the silly script and the silly manner in which the story is sometimes acted. What a shame that the film is more boring than funny.

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3 out of 9 people found the following review useful:

Extremely broad humor and not the greatest example of British humor, but still a watchable film in spite of this pedigree

Author: planktonrules from Bradenton, Florida
1 October 2007

Roger Livesey and Anthony Newley play a father and son at the end of the 19th century. Livesey is stuffy and distant and Newley is a rather normal boy who is cursed to live at a rather harsh and humorless boys school. However, by accident they switch bodies and both learn what it's like to live in the other's place AND there are many complications that arise from this unwanted switch.

I love British comedies--especially the lovely and rather subtle films from Ealing Studios as well as some of the comedies of Peter Sellers and Alec Guinness. They are extremely clever and funny with a gentle sense of humor. However, VICE VERSA is not such a British film. While it is occasionally funny, the humor is also extremely blatant and "in your face"--far from subtle or sophisticated. You can tell this will be the tone of this film starting with the opening titles that hit you up side the head--almost as if they are yelling "this is funny, dang it, so laugh!!". Well, I don't need my humor infused with a tiny hint of Benny Hill, thank you, though I still did enjoy this movie as a harmless time-passer and nothing else.

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