The Chameleon (2011) -vs- Changeling (2008)

July 9, 2011 Ben Silverio

“Based on a true story” is where the real world and the cinematic world collide. Whether it be a romantic comedy, a micro-budget horror movie, or a courtroom drama, a film with that label carries weight vicariously, intriguing viewers with the promise that the story, or something like it, actually occurred and in fact could have happened to them.

Both The Chameleon and Changeling explore cases of unexpected reappearances of missing children and the dark secrets surrounding their returns. However, the two films take different approaches in point of view. In The Chameleon, the story is about a professional liar assuming a missing teenage boy’s identity, while Changeling focuses on a mother who, after her nine-year-old son is kidnapped, must deal with the trauma when police return the wrong child and insist he’s her son.

These stories involve what Hollywood sometimes calls “difficult subject matter,” which may be why Changeling, despite an A-List pedigree and considerable critical success, performed only modestly at the box office. The fact that it was based on a true story may have helped in some ways and hurt in others. Now viewers have the chance to experience two nightmarish family dramas, their attention heightened by the knowledge that both films hew more or less closely to true events. For those who can only take so much family angst, clearly a Smackdown is in order. Accept no substitutes. […]