The Change Up is an utter mess of a movie, with just a hint of a mature, hilarious comedy trapped inside it. Strong performances by the two leads aren't enough to save a movie that's just plain poorly put together.
A throwback to the 1987/88 period in which four different body-switching comedies were released within a few months of each other, The Change Up, directed by David Dobkin, updates the formula to the Age of Apatow.
Lawyer and family man Dave (Jason Bateman) and womanizing layabout Mitch (Ryan Reynolds) are lifelong friends—despite Bateman being seven years older—who drunkenly admit to each other one night that they're jealous of one another's lives.
The next morning they wake up in each other's bodies and must navigate life that way. They do each other's jobs, with Reynolds living in Bateman's house and trying to handle his kids and wife (Leslie Mann), while Bateman adjusts to sudden bachelorhood.
The body-switch thing isn't the only formula at work here. Like just about every Judd Apatow or Farrelly Brothers comedy—as well as the Dobkin-directed Wedding Crashers—the R-rated Change Up is as dirty and raunch-filled as can be, while also subscribing to values that are unabashedly pro-family and pro-monogamy.
This is a movie, much like Hall Pass a few months ago, in which every other word is the f-word, sex talk is omnipresent, and various bodily fluids and exposed body parts are flying about seemingly at all times. But for one of the characters to actually have an affair, obviously, is a bridge too far.
The one thing the film really has going for it is that the two main actors are likable and give good performances. It's funny to see the wussy workaholic Bateman and carefree doofus Reynolds impersonate each other, and they're very funny together. A montage in which Bateman explains to Reynolds how to get through the day is especially delightful.
A very good comedy could very easily have been built off of that premise, one that recognized actual human emotion and mined comedy from situations resembling reality.
But that's not what happened here. Scripted by the writers of The Hangover, The Change Up may be the worst-written movie of the year. The dialogue is atrocious and the structure even worse. A better movie would've done more to establish exactly what the pros and cons are of the married-with-kids vs. bachelorhood lifestyle conundrum, but this screenplay is too lazy to bother with that.
And the raunch is just too much. I'm not opposed to sexual humor or dirty jokes by any means, but in this movie they're forced and not especially funny. The Change Up seems to believe that bodily fluids and bare breasts are just inherently hilarious, and surrounding them with jokes isn't necessary.
Many, many things happen that just don't ring true. The movie treats every character like an idiot—not reacting as any normal human would to the strange things Bateman and Reynolds are saying and doing.
Bateman works at an uptight, conservative, white-shoe law firm in Atlanta—the only one in which not one of the partners has even a hint of a Southern accent. Reynolds-as-Bateman says and does about 15 things that would get him fired instantly from any real law firm.
There are also multiple depictions of Atlanta Braves vs. Florida Marlins as a major baseball rivalry that fills both stadiums and sports bars. In a movie about body switching, I found this the biggest, most unbelievable stretch of all.
None of the supporting performances are especially memorable, except for Sydney Rouviere as Bateman's daughter, who acts out a proto-Black Swan feud with a rival fourth-grade ballet dancer. Alan Arkin has a tiny, totally unnecessary part as Reynolds' father, but why an actor of Arkin's caliber was needed remains a mystery, especially for a role clearly created only to shoehorn a wedding into the movie's climax.
Olivia Wilde, who plays a potential Reynolds love interest, isn't quite as dead on screen here as she is in , although I remain not exactly sold on her as a movie star. Leslie Mann, as Bateman's wife, once again gives the exact same performance she's already delivered in both Knocked Up and Funny People. Sure, she's good at playing the unhappy wife who yells at everybody, but it might be time to try something else.
At least she's a female character that the movie doesn't have total contempt for. There's more than one foray into gee-aren't-womens'-bodies-gross humor, which is one of the lower forms of comedy that exists.
Not funny, ever.
Although I may actually prefer that to baby-endangerment humor, in which this movie also indulges.
The Change Up is a huge missed opportunity. I'd really like to see Reynolds and Bateman team up again, preferably with better collaborators. But perhaps the problem is that this body-switch comedy thing is hard to do.
There's a reason Big is the only one of those late-'80s movies that anyone actually remembers.
The Silver Screen Rating: 2 stars (out of 5)
Roll Credits: The Change Up
Directed by: David Dobkin
Starring: Jason Bateman, Ryan Reynolds, Leslie Mann, Olivia Wilde
Length: 1 hour and 52 minutes
Regal Warrington Crossing 22—Click on the link for show times.