REVIEW: The Change-Up [2011]

Score: 4/10 | ★ ½

Rating: R | Runtime: 112 minutes | Release Date: August 5th, 2011 (USA)
Studio: Universal Pictures
Director(s): David Dobkin
Writer(s): Jon Lucas & Scott Moore

“Rotate your turret and go night night”

It may be overly derisive to say, especially from a guy who watched Like Father Like Son and Vice Versa religiously during the late-80s, but The Change-Up has to end up being the laziest piece of cinema released this year. Scribed by the duo behind both Hangover flicks, Jon Lucas and Scott Moore appear to be making a conscious effort to create ‘modern updates’ of tired concepts. After the ho-hum, not as bad as it should have been Ghosts of Girlfriends Past redid A Christmas Carol, their latest work gives us Freaky Friday for the R-rated sect. Enlisting David Dobkin to orchestrate it all—a guy himself who has done little besides a cult fave in Clay Pigeons and his breakout Wedding Crashers—the heavy swearing, nudity, and craziness cannot save it from its underlying cliché.

I love Jason Bateman as much as the next guy, but Hollywood really has to stop casting him opposite younger men, pretending they went to grade school together. It just doesn’t work. I understand his star rose late—the career-defining role of Michael Bluth reinvigorating his appeal at a time when audiences were clamoring for guys in their late-twenties/early-thirties—but don’t waste his talent in roles better suited to younger actors. His Dave Lockwood is seven years older than best friend Mitch Planko (Ryan Reynolds) and it shows. You can only make the joke about differences in physique so much before realizing the filmmakers are merely trying to hide their casting miscue. Or maybe it just goes to show how lackluster the film was that I simply couldn’t stop looking at Bateman’s crow’s feet, shaking my head at the absurdity of it all.

Minutiae like that and whether Olivia Wilde, (playing Lockwood’s law clerk/assistant Sabrina), had removed her distinctive cheek scar—she hasn’t, you can still barely see it in close-ups—shouldn’t be what I worry myself about while watching a comedy. I should be getting invested in the plot, but that is so hard when it concerns two grown men—one a successful lawyer with a wife, three kids, and a figurative picket fence, the other a man-child actor who never even finished high school, but obviously passed Sex Ed—who switch bodies after a drunken, public urination gone wrong. Atlanta’s lights go dark when the declarative, “I wish I had your life!” is uttered, the fountain’s statue smiling knowingly, and the next morning beginning the wildest ride of both their lives. Why? Because only by living the other’s life can they find who they really want to be. Truly touching stuff.

So the antics begin as Reynolds channels Bateman and vice versa—although Dobkin misses an opportunity when Jason, playing Ryan, says his own trademark line, “Shut it down,” instead of having Ryan say it, as Jason, to make people familiar with the actor’s schtick laugh. Bateman’s Lockwood attempts to reconcile his overachieving mentality of hitting all the check-stops on the way to fortune and love with a want of joy; Reynolds’ Planko looks to change how he thinks about himself after finding out everyone in his life sees him as a quitter. One is on the path to learning how to let loose, the other on what it means to be an adult. A dynamite script could have overshadowed the mundanity of it all, but having little babies projectile poop into an adult’s mouth, a nine-months pregnant woman desiring freaky sex, and the introduction to a new form of movie called the lorno—light porn—does not do the trick.

It isn’t all for naught, though, as it’s pretty great watching Bateman’s usually responsible adult cussing and wearing his feelings on his sleeve. Skunk-face is ingrained on his mug when inhabited by Reynold’s brain, the insanity of working a full-time job, wearing suits and shoes, and not sexually harassing coworkers unfathomable. There is no tact, whatsoever, even at home. Having to live as his best friend means having to spend the day with his wife Jamie (Leslie Mann). Always wondering what it would have been like to sleep with her, he finally thinks this is his chance. But the look behind the curtain into domesticity and the no-longer-needing-to-impress-my-husband-with-an-impeccably-feminine-demeanor is a huge wake-up call. Even though Mann is surprisingly topless for a majority of the film, it will still be impossible for any sort of arousal after a scene in their bedroom with bathroom door wide open.

Reynolds has his moments too, but playing Bateman isn’t as out of the box. Being responsible isn’t necessarily something I’d usually equate with the actor, but it also isn’t a huge stretch. For his scenes, it’s the comedy of prudish shyness that rules. Whereas his counterpart can easily screw up a huge merger in front of his boss, (a fun Gregory Itzin), Reynolds needs to play up the disgust level, awkwardly going through the day of a womanizing dirtbag. His best moment is bumping heads with a director—brilliantly played by Craig Bierko with accent, a guy I haven’t seen onscreen in forever—while Bateman’s “Mitch” gets to find out how his father really feels about him as Alan Arkin believes he’s speaking to Dave and deal with two rugrats and a precocious ballerina (Sydney Rouviere) at home. Laughs are inevitable, but while teaching an eight-year old how to solve problems with violence is funny, babies playing with blenders, knives, and electrical outlets may be a tad too much.

Their time out of body all hinges on bureaucratic incompetence finding their magic fountain, moved the morning after the transference. The two want nothing more than to switch back at the start, but later on discover they could get used to being the men they never were. Moments of epiphanies occur, though, shot with a lack of inspiration as the face of the actor inside the head of the actor we just saw replaces the other in a camera pan—trust me, it makes sense after seeing it—sentimental music playing in the background. And that’s par for the course, lazy clichés turning up over and over again. Not even the wildcard of Wilde can save contrivances, her punk chic lifestyle of bucking the norm as obvious as the guys’ stereotypical tropes. Laughs just aren’t enough anymore, not with the amount of comedies released each year. Sadly The Change-Up falls prey to selling the audience short and I hope one day the public stops blindly allowing it to happen.

[1] (L to R) Mitch (RYAN REYNOLDS) is confused by Dave’s (JASON BATEMAN) twins in “The Change-Up”, the new comedy from the director of Wedding Crashers and the writers of The Hangover that takes the body-switching movie where it’s never gone before. Photo Credit: Richard Cartwright Copyright: © 2011 Universal Studios. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
[2] Dave (JASON BATEMAN) and wife Jamie (LESLIE MANN) have an awkward dinner in “The Change-Up”, the new comedy from the director of Wedding Crashers and the writers of The Hangover that takes the body-switching movie where it’s never gone before. Photo Credit: Richard Cartwright Copyright: © 2011 Universal Studios. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
[3] Ryan Reynolds as Mitch Planko and Olivia Wilde as Sabrina McArdle in Universal Pictures’ The Change-Up.

2 Thoughts to “REVIEW: The Change-Up [2011]”

  1. E

    Your sense of humor sucks. Lighten up. It’s not meant to be an academy award winner. The amount of time you put in writing this article is what is absurd.

    1. but not as absurd as you finishing reading and then taking the time to comment …

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