Time for a switcheroo – The Change-Up review

The Change-Up – Starring Jason BatemanRyan Reynolds and Leslie Mann. Directed by David Dobkin. Rated MA. Originally published September 6, 2011. By Simon Miraudo.

For a film called The Change-Upthis thing is pretty damn stale. Forget the fact this is a body swap comedy (a genre that went out fashion with shoulder pads and Ken Done sweaters, despite the efforts of Claudia Karvan/Guy Pearce and Lindsay Lohan/Jamie Lee Curtis respectively); director David Dobkin and writers Jon Lucas and Scott Moore attempt to extract yuks in the most exasperatingly flat and lazy manner imaginable. You want specifics? Fart noises. Lots and lots of fake, squishy fart noises. Later in the film, during a supposedly amorous sequence, Marvin Gaye’s Let’s Get It On begins to play – sadly, it was not followed by an abrupt record scratch. But maybe the best (best?) example comes in the opening scene, in which Jason Bateman accidentally swallows a mouthful of projectile baby poop. The movie never gets any classier. To quote Watchmen, for no reason other than it’s wildly appropriate, “If you begin to feel an intense and crushing feeling of terror at the concept, don’t be alarmed. That indicates only that you are still sane.”

Jason Bateman and Ryan Reynolds star as old friends Dave Lockwood and Mitch Planko (and later, Mitch Planko and Dave Lockwood). Dave is a hard-working family man whose affection for his wife (Leslie Mann) and three precocious kids has never died, but his willingness to give them his time has certainly waned. Mitch, meanwhile, is a wake-and-baking wannabe actor driven only by his desire to find and conquer sexual mates, rebuffing his estranged father’s (Alan Arkin) advances to mend their relationship. The duo goes out for a couple of beers and end up drunkenly peeing in a fountain where they simultaneously proclaim they wish they had the other’s life (not even the plot’s biggest contrivance). Lo and behold, the next morning they discover they’ve swapped bodies, and until they can figure out how to switch back, they’ll need to try and not ruin one another’s lives.

You can’t accuse Bateman and Reynolds of phoning it in. Although the premise screams, ‘Look, we know what this is, but please bear with us and we’ll be out of here in two hours’, they do put in the work. Not only are they nice comic foils – quite a few of their exchanges are genuinely chuckle-inducing – they’re also surprisingly adept at playing one another. This bodes well for the future success of both actors, considering Bateman seemed to be temporarily trapped in straight-man hell, and Reynolds’ attempt to become a tentpole-toplining movie star was foiled with the flopping of Green Lantern. The ladies fare just as well, despite being stuck in some thankless roles. The excellent Leslie Mann is really made to work for her bread and butter, which is a shame considering how far above the material she is. And Olivia Wilde, as Bateman’s assistant Sabrina, is plenty charming, despite being lit in such a manner to make her look inhuman.

Moore and Lucas previously penned The Hangovera credit they’ll be able to dine on for the rest of their lives (Dobkin can do the same with his 2006 hit Wedding Crasherswhich is still referred to glowingly as the pace-setter for hit R-rated comedies at the box offic). The Change-Up has plenty in common with The Hangover; it takes a one-line premise and stretches it out to feature-length running time, hoping that the charm of its leads will distract from the laziness of the plot. Where The Hangover excelled was in its ability to surprise – the machinations were shrouded by the increasing nuttiness of the scenarios its characters found themselves in. The Change-Up is not quite nutty enough to distract from the clichés. Its idea of ingenuity is a sexually voracious pregnant woman and an elderly porno actress.


Check out Simon’s other reviews here.

The Change-Up arrives on DVD and Blu-ray in Australia January 5, 2012.

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