© 2011 Ray Wong
Body-swap stories such as Freaky Friday are nothing new. What's different about The Change-Up is that it's a hodgepodge of gross-out raunchy and buddy/bromance comedy, except Judd Apatow, unfortunately, isn't involved in this.
Dave (Jason Bateman) and Mitch (Ryan Reynolds) are bestfriends who can't be more different. Married to beautiful Jamie (Leslie Mann), Dave is a workaholic and an overachiever. He's about to make partner at his firm but he's trying his hardest to juggle between being a father of three, a husband, and a lawyer. Mitch, on the other hand, is always stoned, always late, and a womanizer, and he never holds a real job (except his half-hearted attempt at being an actor). How these guys stay buddies through the years is a mystery.
After a night of carousing, Dave and Mitch, while urinating into a fountain, confess they want each other's life. Something strange happens. They wake up in each other's body. At first they freak out, and they try to tell Jamie the truth, but she simply thinks they are nuts. So reluctantly they must carry on their respective lives for each other.
They are like two fish out of water. Mitch almost ruins Dave's career, while Dave is totally lost in Mitch's chaotic affairs. Then things start to turn around. Mitch realizes what a loser he has been and that he can be a responsible person. Dave realizes he's been working too hard and missing out on life. They enjoy their newfound purposes so much that they consider not switching back at all…
Ryan Reynolds (Green Lantern) returns to comedy with ease. He is hilarious as Mitch the douche bag. What's good about Reynolds is that he can also do the serious side. His talent is evident when he switches personality to play the uptight and conservative Dave. Meanwhile, Jason Bateman (Horrible Bosses) hits comedy gold: he's perfect as Dave, but outrageous as Mitch. Both actors are excellent in their dual roles. However, I feel that they have failed to impersonate each other's mannerisms and body language. Thus, I am not entirely convinced that Reynolds is Bateman in his body, and vice versa. It feels more like Reynolds is trying to play the character Dave instead of playing Dave the way Bateman does (if that makes any sense). Same goes with Bateman (although I think he does a better job copying Reynolds' mannerism).
Leslie Mann (Funny People) is very attractive as Dave's wife Jamie, who is a working mother who feels neglected by her workaholic husband. Mann does a great job exuding self-confidence and doubts at the same time. Olivia Wilde (Cowboys and Aliens) is gorgeous as Dave's subordinates at the law firm (and potential love interest). She also shows great comic timing and zest that we don't always see in her performances.
Screenwriters Jon Lucas (The Hangover) and Scott Moore (The Hangover) give us a script that is contrived and predictable, but full with R-rated obscenity, bathroom humor, raunch and nudity. The plot follows a template: vastly different personalities and lifestyles, impending crises, misplaced affection or lust, and lessons learned. Obviously we are not supposed to watch a movie like The Change-Up for deep philosophical musing. We come for the laughs, and Lucas and Moore give us plenty to laugh at. Anything from potty humor to crude sexual references and awkward situations. It is, frankly quite sophomoric.
The dialogue is generally funny with a huge dose of raunch and obscenity, sometimes rather unnecessary. I mean, seriously? Even if Mitch is a douche (again, why is he still a friend of Dave's family?), he wouldn't be swearing and talking about sex stuff in front of Dave's young daughter (and why would Jamie allow that?). What kind of person does that?
Also, the situations seem contrived at times. Conflicts are manufactured to up the stakes. And the relationship between Mitch and Dave, while endearing, is unbelievable. Would Dave really leave Mitch alone in his office to potentially ruin his career? I don't think so. He would be sitting in the office watching over him at all times (it's not like "Mitch" has anything going on in his life). Then again, there will be no story -- that's why I feel the plot is rather contrived.
David Dobkin's (Wedding Crashers) direction is crisp and fast-paced. There's really nothing wrong with his workman-like direction. Just that there's not much to be commended either. The plot flows smoothly and he lets the actors do their thing; that's always important. He's also not shy with presenting some of the more graphic materials. The production is professional enough, but the soundtrack is totally forgettable. A missed opportunity here.
The Change-Up isn't a bad movie. It uses tired formulas and adds raunch and filth to it to spice the punch. If you enjoy raunchy comedies about a couple guys and nudity and sophomoric humor, this is not a bad way to spend an evening. Otherwise, change the channel.
Stars: Ryan Reynolds, Jason Bateman, Leslie Mann, Olivia Wilde, Alan Arkin, Mircea Monroe
Director: David Dobkin
Writers: Jon Lucas, Scott Moore
MPAA Rating: R for pervasive, strong, crude sexual content and language, some graphic nudity and drug use
Running Time: 112 minutes
Script – 6
Performance – 7
Direction – 7
Cinematography – 7
Editing – 7
Production – 7
Total – 6.7 out of 10