Switch (1991 film)

Last updated
Switch poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Blake Edwards
Produced by Tony Adams
Written byBlake Edwards
Music by Henry Mancini
Don Grady
Cinematography Dick Bush
Edited byRobert Pergament
HBO Pictures
Cinema Plus
Distributed by Warner Bros.
Release date
  • May 10, 1991 (1991-05-10)
Running time
103 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$14 million [1]
Box office$15.5 million

Switch is a 1991 American fantasy comedy film written and directed by Blake Edwards. Based on George Axelrod's 1959 play Goodbye Charlie (and the 1964 film of the same title), the film stars Ellen Barkin, Jimmy Smits, JoBeth Williams, and Lorraine Bracco.



Ad man Steve Brooks (Perry King) — a promiscuous misogynist and quintessential chauvinist — is invited to a deadly surprise party by three former lovers. Margo (JoBeth Williams), Liz (Lysette Anthony) and Felicia (Victoria Mahoney) try to drown him in the hot tub. When that fails, Margo shoots him point blank in the chest, killing him.

In Purgatory, God (voiced by Linda Gary and Richard Provost) gives Steve one chance at redemption. He is returned to Earth, alive, and told that he must find a soulmate who truly loves him. If he fails, he will go to Hell. The Devil (Bruce Payne) convinces God to give Steve a challenge, taking his infamous charm into account, and Steve is transformed into a beautiful woman named Amanda (Ellen Barkin). Amanda goes to Margo, convinces her of her real identity as Steve and persuades her to give her lessons in being a woman.

Telling everyone that Steve has run off and that she is his half-sister, Amanda moves into Steve's life, convincing his boss at the advertising agency, Arnold Friedkin (Tony Roberts), to give her her brother's job, which partly involves getting a plum account with lesbian perfume magnate Sheila Faxton (Lorraine Bracco). Amanda tries to use her new female body as a weapon in her campaign to get the account and to win a woman's love. Sheila responds, but Amanda balks on following through on the seduction. Margo reminds her that homophobia was one of the traits that made Steve so hateful. Amanda breaks up with Sheila, telling her that the romance was contrived to get her as a client. The agency keeps the account but Sheila is furious at Amanda.

When Amanda prays to God for help, the Devil offers her a job with his operation. She refuses and calls all the names in Steve's address book, hoping to find a woman who has something kind to say about him. Instead she discovers just how hated Steve is, and how deeply she as him damaged countless women. In the course of the film, Amanda also begins to understand how women live and resents the way men — including herself as Steve — perversely treat them.

Steve's best friend, Walter Stone (Jimmy Smits), has been attracted to Amanda from their first meeting, and when despair sends her on a bender, he joins her. They get drunk together, and after Amanda convinces Walter that she is Steve, they have sex. In the morning, Amanda has no memory of the encounter and accuses Walter of raping her while she was passed out — the same thing Steve himself would have done. Walter is astonished, and insists that Amanda was not only awake but an enthusiastic participant. Amanda recognizes the difference between the man she used to be as Steve and the far better man that Walter is.

Meanwhile, Steve's body has been found in the river, and Margo plants her gun in Amanda's sofa, framing her for the crime. Amanda is found unfit for trial. In the mental hospital, she learns that she is pregnant with Walter's child. There are dangerous complications, but she insists on carrying the baby to term. Walter proposes, and Amanda reluctantly accepts: they are married. Months pass and, with Walter beside her, Amanda gives birth to a baby girl. The newborn infant gazes at her mother with love, and Amanda dies, having earned a place in Heaven.

Upon arriving in Heaven, Amanda must decide whether to spend eternity as a male or a female angel. She finds the decision difficult, especially after, five years later, she watches as Walter and their daughter bring flowers to her grave. God, in their dual voices, reassures Amanda that she has all eternity to decide.



The film received mixed to negative reviews and holds a 35% rating on Rotten Tomatoes from 20 reviews. [2] It debuted at No. 2 at the box office. [3] Roger Ebert gave it 2 1/2 out of 3 stars. He saw unfulfilled potential: “If Edwards had somehow found a way to really grapple with the implications of his story - if he had pushed to see how far he could go - “Switch” might have been a truly revolutionary comedy, on the order of “Tootsie” but more sexually frank...” [4]


Although Switch was not a success at the box office, Ellen Barkin was nominated for a Golden Globe for her role, while Bruce Payne was described as a 'delightfully wicked Satan' by Film Review. [5]

This film was indirectly referenced numerous times throughout the long-running series Mystery Science Theater 3000 . In the original television spots for the film, Jimmy Smits' name was announced in an unusual way: "Ellen Barkin. Switch. Jimmy Smits. Starts Friday." The writers of MST3K found it amusing that Smits' name was announced after the title and not announced as "also starring Jimmy Smits" or "with Jimmy Smits", only as "Jimmy Smits". [6] Smits became a running gag on the series: in various episodes, a character of the show would say "Jimmy Smits" whenever the word "switch" was uttered or sometimes for seemingly no reason at all.


The motion picture was supposed to have a soundtrack composed and arranged by Henry Mancini, who shares composer credits with Don Grady, but Mancini's score was ultimately replaced by a variation of Joni Mitchell's song "Both Sides, Now", done by Paul Young/Clannad. Both the unused Mancini score and the pop song soundtrack were produced on CD in 1991, as a result of which two motion picture soundtrack albums exist for the film.

Henry Mancini score

  1. Main Title - Theme from "Switch" - 2:10
  2. Something for Pizzi - 4:00
  3. Amanda and the Devil - 2:25
  4. Seduction - 3:17
  5. Dukes - 3:00
  6. It's All There (Song from "Switch" Instrumental) - 3:22
  7. They Marry - 3:34
  8. Fashion Show - 1:42
  9. End Title - Theme from "Switch" - 4:30

Pop soundtrack

  1. Lyle Lovett - "You Can't Resist It" - 3:05
  2. Ronnie Milsap - "Old Habits Are Hard to Break" - 5:32
  3. Bruce Hornsby and the Range - "Barren Ground" - 4:53
  4. Paul Young/Clannad - "Both Sides, Now" - 5:10
  5. Nathalie Archangel - "So Quiet, So Still" - 4:10
  6. Pretty Boy Floyd - "Slam Dunk" (written by Quiet Riot and later recorded for their album Down to the Bone and rerecord for Alive and Well ) - 2:55
  7. Joe Ely - "Are You Listenin' Lucky?" - 3:34
  8. Indecent Obsession - "Dream After Dream" - 4:06
  9. The Jets - "Sendin' Out a Message" - 4:03
  10. Jody Watley - "It's All There" - 2:38
  11. Billie Holiday - "Lover Man" - 3:18

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  1. "Switch". AFI Catalog. Retrieved March 22, 2021.
  2. "MOVIE REVIEWS : Blake Edwards' 'Switch' Takes Comedy to the Edge". Los Angeles Times . Retrieved 2012-06-05.
  3. "WEEKEND BOX OFFICE : 'FX2' Leads a Slow Field". Los Angeles Times . Retrieved 2012-06-06.
  4. Ebert, Roger (May 10, 1991). "Reviews: Switch". Roger Ebert.com.
  5. "Plane Payne". Archived from the original on December 19, 2009. Retrieved March 22, 2021.
  6. Beaulieu, Trace; et al. (1996). The Mystery Science Theater 3000 Amazing Colossal Episode Guide. New York: Bantam Books. p. 164. ISBN   0-553-37783-3.