The first forty-five minutes of The Change-Up play off of America’s seemingly insatiable appetite for raunchy humor, which this year alone has seen a tremendous surge in popularity in films such as Hall Pass, Bridesmaids, Horrible Bosses, Bad Teacher, and The Hangover Part II. Certain scenes are so tasteless that they seem more like endurance tests rather than plot advancement. In the course of this movie, we will witness an infant projectile-defecating onto Jason Bateman’s face (and into his mouth), Bateman and Ryan Reynolds urinating into a public fountain, and Leslie Mann stripping naked before plopping down on a toilet and announcing that she needs to cool it on the Thai food (“Seriously, you should light a candle”). In a monumentally unfunny scene, twin infants play with kitchen knives, meat cleavers, blenders, and outlets, which dramatically spark; knowing that special effects made the scene possible didn’t help one bit.
When the film isn’t going out of its way to be crude and obnoxious, when it actually pauses and allows the story and characters to develop, we may find ourselves a bit disillusioned, since the whole thing is essentially the latest of several Freaky Friday rip-offs. In this body-swap comedy, Bateman and Reynolds play best friends Dave Lockwood and Mitch Planko. The former is a workaholic lawyer stressed by his job, his marriage, and his three children, two of which are infant twins. The latter is a slacker who smokes pot, has a roster of sexual partners (most notably a woman who is nine months pregnant), and swears a lot. After a night of drinking, they admit that they envy each other’s different lives. They then stumble up to a public fountain, unzip their flies, and start peeing into it – because, obviously, that’s what you’re always supposed to do when you’re drunk and you have to pee. The statue on top of the fountain gazes at them disapprovingly. Mid stream, they utter in unison, “I wish I had your life.” The next morning, they awaken to discover that they have switched bodies.
First off, let’s address the idea that they envy each other’s lives. You can sort of understand it from Dave’s perspective. Because he worked so hard to become a lawyer, he never got the chance to go through the one irresponsible phase permitted to men in their twenties; now that he’s married with children, he can never have that opportunity. When it comes to Mitch, however, we see nothing to suggest that he longs for a wife, a family, and steady employment. If anything, he seems quite content being an aspiring actor who has found work in light pornography, which he has dubbed Lorno. His few scenes with Dave’s kids – and, indeed, with Dave’s wife, Jamie (Mann) – make it obvious that he not only doesn’t know what he’s doing, but that he also has no real desire to figure it out. In other words, I didn’t believe him when he wished for Dave’s life. The closest Mitch gets to emotional complexity is in a painfully underdeveloped subplot involving him and his strained relationship with his father (Alan Arkin).
We will watch the supposed hilarity of Dave and Mitch having to muddle through each other’s lives. Mitch (now played by Bateman) must now look and sound like a professional while at the same time endure the demands of marriage and fatherhood. He will, of course, fail miserable on all accounts – except that his actions will miraculously benefit Dave in some way, shape, or form. I could suspend disbelief for things such as negotiating a merger deal with a Japanese firm. I can’t say the same thing about Mitch undermining Dave’s parenting decisions. Case in point: His young daughter, Cara (Sydney Rouviere), who has been taught to diffuse bad social situations verbally rather than physically. Mitch, in the guise of Cara’s father, tells her that it’s okay to beat up on a girl who purposely trips her up during ballet recitals. Violence is cool, he says. Not only is this not funny, it’s just plain mean. Thank God Mitch doesn’t have children of his own.
It’s a little different for Dave (now played by Reynolds), since Mitch never had all that much to do. It’s really more about getting some time off from the daily grind, which is admittedly a healthy attitude. He does begin a relationship of sorts with his legal associate, Sabrina (Olivia Wilde), who he has desired in the past but never pursued due to his marriage. Sabrina, who thinks Dave is Mitch, turns out to be more the latter’s type, despite the fact that she’s a responsible, functioning adult. Through this experience, Dave will have the obvious epiphanies: Despite having the best of intentions, he spends too much time at work and has neglected his wife and children. Although highly conventional, this allows for the only scene I liked, in which Jamie tearfully confesses to her husband – who she thinks is Mitch – that their problems may be irreconcilable. It was the perfect blend of heart and humor.
As for the real Mitch, I’m hard pressed to say he will learn much of anything, apart from the fact that his inexplicable desire to be a successful family man is clearly unfounded. The only thing this character is good for is providing us with scene after scene of tasteless dialogue, which is recited with such energy by both Reynolds and Bateman that they must have been getting paid by the letter. And what of that? The Change-Up was written by Jon Lucas and Scott Moore, whose credits include the 2009 blockbuster The Hangover, which wasn’t all that funny but at least benefited from an engaging plot. Had they applied that same level of creativity, had they remembered that even tasteless comedies are entitled to both an interesting story and – God forbid – some degree of originality, I think The Change-Up might have had a chance. Amazing, the effort wasted on something so pointless.
Remember the old saying “Be Careful what you wish for, you just might get it”? How about “the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence?” Well, the comedy “The Change-Up” is a comedy that relies on one’s ability to appreciate raunchy humor and a sense of comedic irony. It would also help if the said viewer liked films such as “Freaky Friday” and “The Hot Chick” (ok, maybe those films had a better comedic quality) because … more
There are certain things you need to just plain accept as fact in order to enjoy THE CHANGE-UP. First of all, you have to accept that the notions of what it means to be a responsible adult in the film will be as cliched and contrived as they can possibly be. Past that, you need to accept that, as this is a comedy for dumb boys and from the minds of dumb boys, there will be plenty of T & A and no fart joke opportunity will be missed. Foremost though, you need to accept that two grown men can … more
Incredibly surprised how much I enjoyed watching this when I rented it. Much of its success is because of Jason Bateman's performance but even Ryan Reynolds was not bad in it at all. It is a story about 'be careful what you wish for you just might get it" and 'the grass is always greener from the other side of the fence'. This is a comedy not for kids as it contains sexuality and nudity. It is from the writers of "The Hangover". Granted the … more
When it comes to body-switch comedies most people think of family films like Freaky Friday, Big, 17 Again, and even, The Hot Chick. This weekend we get a new take on this old storyline, but the success or failure of The Change-Up is up for debate. From the director of Wedding Crashers and the writing team that brought us The Hangover, one would think that a grown-up take on the otherwise family friendly genre, would have potential to be a success. The Change-Up, however, takes the risk of being … more
Growing up a shy kid in a quiet suburb of Los Angeles, Chris Pandolfi knows all about the imagination. Pretend games were always the most fun for him, especially on the school playground; he and his … more
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