How many people have heard of Gregory K? It is not a name which meant anything to me before stumbling across "Switching Parents" which is also known as "Gregory K" but evidently this was the name which the media gave to 12 year old Gregory Kingsley who made the news when in 1992 he went to court to divorce his parents in order to be raised by a more loving family. Now that certainly is the basis for a powerful story especially when you learn that Gregory's own parents are abusive and poor parents but does it make for a good movie? Unfortunately when it comes to "Switching Parents" a made for TV movie from 1993 it only ends up an average movie which was presumably made quickly to capitalize on the story being fresh in people's minds but in being so lacks the depth and fine tuning to make it more than average.
Anyway the story starts with Gregory being taken to a ranch for boys in Florida where upon we are served up a series of flashbacks which tell his story. We learn how Gregory ended up with his father Ralph when he left his wife Rachel leaving his two younger sons with her who end up in foster care. We also see how after being beaten up by his father Gregory ended up back with his brothers and living with his mum who couldn't cope and so he ends up in foster care. And there is plenty more but all of which works its way through to Gregory meeting the Russ family who foster him which leads to young Gregory heading to court to try and divorce his parents, something which his mother opposed.
Now as I said the story of Gregory is a powerful one as is any story which features a child poorly treated by parents but because "Switching Parents" feels like it has been rushed through to capitalize on this being in people's minds doesn't feel complete. There is something a little clunky about the narrative and the dialogue often feels raw as do some of the performances and the direction is purely typical of the made for TV movie genre.
But what "Switching Parents" has is a young Joseph Gordon-Levitt who even at a young age exhibits such an extraordinary ability for delivering character. Watching JGL as Gregory is captivating and he brings to life the withdrawn state of young Gregory and through his actions, the emotional yet controlled rage when he feels abandoned by his mother gives his character the only real depth in the whole movie. It is almost amusing how the young JGL out performs actors so much older than himself.
What this all boils down to is that "Switching Parents" whilst telling a powerful story has the same issues which many made for TV movies suffer from which appear to have been rushed out to capitalize on a hot story. But it does feature a young Joseph Gordon-Levitt who even at a young age shows a talent for acting.