Jenna Rink, meet Jess Walker.
Jennifer Garner returns to the body-swap genre in McG's upcoming Netflix comedy Family Switch, evoking her beloved role in the 2004 romance-comedy 13 Going on 30. Instead of her teenage self awakening as an adult, however, her character will find herself in the body of her teenage daughter, played by Wednesday breakout Emma Myers.
When EW catches up with McG over the phone one August afternoon, the director — who previously teamed with the streamer for Rim of the World, The Babysitter, and The Babysitter: Killer Queen — confirms the comedy gets "very meta" when asked about possible 13 Going on 30 crossovers. "We overtly mention 13 Going on 30," he says with a laugh. "There's a meta sort of runner in the movie because I like showing the audience that kind of respect. We get it, we get it." (Expect a new generation of Six Chicks terrorizing the school hallways.)
Premiering Nov. 30, Family Switch follows Jess (Garner) and Bill Walker (Ed Helms), parents doing their best to keep their family connected as their children, daughter CC (Myers) and son Wyatt (Brady Noon), grow older, more independent, and distant. A chance encounter with an astrological reader (Rita Moreno) at Los Angeles' cosmic Griffith Observatory causes the Walkers to wake up the next morning to a body swap with each other — even down to one between baby brother Miles and the family dog.
Colleen Hayes/Netflix Emma Myers, Brady Noon, Jennifer Garner, and Ed Helms in McG's 'Family Switch'
The mystical occurrence presents itself on the most important day of each of the Walkers' lives, and it's up to the clashing family to unite in order to land that job promotion, record deal, college interview, and soccer tryout. Based on the late Amy Krouse Rosenthal's 2010 children's book Bedtime for Mommy, the comedy also stars Xosha Roquemore, Fortune Feimster, Bashir Salahuddin, Matthias Schweighöfer, Paul Scheer, and Pete Holmes.
Ultimately, Family Switch is a movie about empathy — one that comes at a "moment in the world where we could certainly use a dose of that," McG says. "We hope that it's surprising and light and more intelligent than you might think. I mean, my favorite way to make movies is to synthesize highbrow and lowbrow, where a kid could watch it and understand what's going on, but a parent could watch it and ingest the material on a totally different, more sophisticated level, which is something I think Pixar does better than anybody, and I aspire to do that."
Set around Christmas time, the comedy will also offer the warm and fuzzy components of a holiday film, but, McG says, more in the sense that Love Actually or Die Hard are holiday films, "if you want to consider Die Hard a holiday film," he offers. "It takes place during the holidays, but it's really about family." And, as with any McG movie, viewers can fully expect whimsical musical dance sequences, including one particularly festive opening sequence featuring Garner and Helms.
Colleen Hayes/Netflix Brady Noon, Emma Myers, Jennifer Garner, and Ed Helms in McG's 'Family Switch'
"It's the embodiment of when you get out of your head and into your heart," he says of the sequences. "That's the message of the movie."
And what's a musical movie without West Side Story legend Moreno? The director says he was in awe watching the legendary stage and screen actor's dynamic on set, sharing one particularly moving parting anecdote amid the ongoing writers and actors' strikes for fair pay.
"A grip who came to America from Korea, he is a key grip on the movie, and he learned English watching Rita Moreno on The Electric Company, which was a famous TV show for kids in the '70s. He touched me on the shoulder and said, 'Hey, would you introduce me to Rita? Because I want to share with her [the] role she played in my life,'" McG recalls. "So, we're there on the set, middle of the night, we're out by Griffith Park, and the grip has this incredible story. It's moments like that where you're just so thankful to be in the storytelling business and the magic of Hollywood. It's something I wish both sides could take a deep breath and think about."
Family Switch premieres Nov. 30 on Netflix.