Mark Reviews Movies

The Change-Up


1 Star (out of 4)

Director: David Dobkin

Cast: Ryan Reynolds, Jason Bateman, Leslie Mann, Olivia Wilde, Alan Arkin

MPAA Rating: R (for pervasive strong crude sexual content and language, some graphic nudity and drug use)

Running Time: 1:41

Release Date: 8/5/11

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Review by Mark Dujsik | August 4, 2011

I don't know if The Change-Up would have worked better had Ryan Reynolds and Jason Bateman continued playing their respective characters even after said characters switch bodies. Both actors have an innate comic ability to employ sarcasm, but that's really where the similarities end.

What we're left with is watching each actor start off by making an effort to mimic the other before—thanks to the screenplay's weak attempt to force life lessons upon the characters—falling back into essentially playing the roles they first had. Dramatically, it's faulty. When we see one actor go from playing an overburdened workaholic who can barely make time for his wife and three kids to a foul-mouthed playboy, it's anticlimactic to see him return to being a man overloaded on obligations to the point of forgetting about his family.

Of course, this is just inconsequential speculating when faced with the material at hand. The movie is a lazily vulgar comedy of errors with the underpinnings of sappy sentimentality. That it opens with a sleepy man powering through, attempting to do his fatherly diaper duties, and winding up drenched in diarrhetic discharge is probably the best possible summation. It's a movie that doesn't know when enough is enough. For example, it isn't enough that the dad winds up with his face covered in excrement; he just has to go and open his mouth.

The dad in question is Dave Lockwood (Bateman), a successful lawyer on his way to more success. He's about to make partner as long as he can close one final deal. His best friend since forever is Mitch Planko (Reynolds), an actor by trade and a man who bases his schedule on waking up with enough time to get high before he heads off to the bar. On Tuesdays, though, he has to make sure he's back at his place for a late-night rendezvous with a woman he picked up at a Lamaze class for single mothers.

A smarter script would at least have hinted at the way in which Mitch finagled and smooth-talked his way into a class where, in theory, a single man without a pregnant woman accompanying him would stand out like a lone man at a single-mothers' Lamaze class. Jon Lucas and Scott Moore's script is not a smarter one, though, and in case that isn't made clear before the plot's inciting incident, the fact that the story finally turns into motion after the two guys urinate in a magical fountain that causes their minds to swap bodies (after each wishes he had the other's life) should solidify it.

The complications, inevitably, arise. Dave's big meeting happens to be planned for the first day in which Mitch's mind is occupying his body. Mitch's first day on set for a movie is this same day that Dave's mind has taken residence in his corporal vessel. They both instruct each other what to do. Mitch-as-Dave must simply keep his mouth shut until they ask for the document upon which the merger is founded; Dave-as-Mitch needs to be on time, get into makeup, and just do whatever the director says. Mitch-as-Dave, naturally, screws up, and Dave-as-Mitch, who's the more sensitive of the duo, winds up with his thumb in a certain orifice of an actress' body—an act that's usually reserved for oneself in metaphorical terms.

None of this is particularly funny, mostly in part due to the fact that we can sense Mitch-as-Dave's dilemma coming from a mile away and Dave-as-Mitch's problem is entirely about some perceived shock value. It gets much worse, including a return to toilet humor and an extended gag involving child endangerment that practically destroys any apathetic will we might have had toward the movie's lethargic sense of humor.

The real bulk of the screenplay's conflict rests on two women: Dave's wife Jamie (Leslie Mann) and a law associate that works at his firm named Sabrina (Olivia Wilde). This is not a movie that has much patience for its female characters, who wind up being—in Jamie's case—an unpredictable bag of emotions or—in Sabrina's case—the kind of best friend who'll go out to a baseball game, drink beer, and be wearing a bra to remove at the end of the night. Jamie is easily the most sympathetic character of the bunch, but she exists only to be an object of previously unattainable desire for Mitch-as-Dave (until she has the audacity to use the bathroom, at which point she's wholly undesirable to him) and someone whose emotions put off everyone else.

In the end, I don't know if The Change-Up could have benefited from keeping the actors playing their characters throughout, or—put better—it probably could not have made the movie any worse than it already is.

Copyright © 2011 by Mark Dujsik. All rights reserved.

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