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'18 Again!'

By Rita Kempley
Washington Post Staff Writer
April 08, 1988


Paul Flaherty
George Burns;
Charlie Schlatter;
Tony Roberts;
Anita Morris;
Miriam Flynn;
Jennifer Runyon;
Red Buttons
Parental guidance suggested

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There's a new invasion of the body snatchers -- older men swapping their aging carcasses for younger men's firm flesh. Thanks to the Pod-heads who conquered Hollywood, the monotony never stops. They're about to hit us in our multiplexes one more time with "18 Again!," an anesthetizing variation on the dread theme.

George Burns plays an 81-year-old grandfather who walks a mile in his 18-year-old grandson's high-tops. It's Son of Son of "Like Father Like Son." Old Jack is a lusty, feisty, crusty but lovable mogul who enjoys busty women and big cigars. Young David is a retiring college freshman who is bullied by his fraternity brothers, his track coach and his parents, who don't understand him. Worst of all, he's ignored by the coed of his dreams.

The topsy-turvies begin when Jack makes a birthday-cake wish; he and David wreck the Rolls; and for inexplicable reasons, the swap occurs. There is a little twist this time: David's essence lies comatose in Jack's body. As a result, Burns sleeps through most of the movie. And who can blame him?

Here, fresh-faced Charlie Schlatter does both body and soul, amateurishly aping Burns. He licks his lips, wears bow ties and punctuates his sentences with well-chewed cigars. He doesn't seem so much like an old guy in a young guy's body as like a doddering, prematurely addlepated adolescent. Schlatter is supported by Tony Roberts, the dependable professional as Arnold -- David's unappreciative father and Jack's unappreciated son.

As you have probably already guessed, everyone learns to appreciate everyone else's problems, and learns more about himself. This is a story that has no surprises -- except for a rather interesting ethical twist that hurries the climax. Otherwise we perch on the edge of our seats, wondering whether David will get the girl, and whether Jack will learn to appreciate Arnold.

Filmmaker Paul Flaherty apparently has never so much as given a friend directions to his home. Not that he had much to work with in this screenplay, based on Burns' country hit single, "I Wish I Was 18 Again." He sings it in the movie. But wouldn't a "Make It Burns" video have sufficed?

© Copyright 1999 The Washington Post Company

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