It's one thing to dismiss "The Change-Up" as an R-rated "Freaky Friday" (which it totally is) but it is another to not give the entertaining idea of it all a chance. From the minute the early screenings started you have probably been hearing about how bad this movie is. Not just in its vulgarity but in its quality as well. Yes, this is the standard body-switching comedy and it does follow those same rules where each of them learn valuable life lessons after experiencing life from a different point of view but then again this is the R-rated version of it and therefore it is a more twisted view of the scenario than we have probably seen before. I say probably because besides the aforementioned "Freaky Friday", "Big", and does "Face/Off" count? I can't say that I've actually seen too many of these types of films but I do always enjoy watching people act against type and that is something a body switching comedy guarantees. That promise plus the fact it was Jason Bateman and Ryan Reynolds doing the switching here made this idea more enticing. Sure, do the R-rated version of it, but make it good and don't cop out on just how far these types of characters would go given such an opportunity. Trust me, they don't flake out, but they don't go beyond the average with it either.
Dave (Jason Bateman) and Mitch (Ryan Reynolds)
share a drink in "The Change-Up".
Another bad thing going for "The Change-Up" is the fact it is another in this summers heavily populated category of raunchy R-rated comedies and if you don't feel fresh then you might get the boot. I feel like, despite being in the same category, next weeks "30 Minutes or Less" will garner much better reviews and see a higher first weekend box office simply because it does in fact feel more original and is stacked with young, up and coming comedians. That is not to say I dislike Bateman, Reynolds or anyone involved in "The Change-Up". After being a huge fan of "Arrested Development" I couldn't be happier to see Bateman now enjoying leading man status at the cinema. Though this does feel like a step backward from last months awesome "Horrible Bosses" and Reynolds could have used a hit following the mega-bomb that was "The Green Lantern". The fact of the matter is is that no matter how funny this movie is it would have been more easily acceptable to audiences paying nine bucks a ticket if they were watching Bateman and Reynolds in a different R-rated comedy. It is what it is though and it's too late to re-think it now so let us finally divulge into the movie at hand and see what exactly it gets right and why it could have been at least a little better.

We have Bateman playing Dave a very Bateman like character who is a driven workaholic lawyer as well as devoted husband and dad. Then we have Reynolds as Mitch, a stereotypical swinging bachelor who is full of irresponsibility and lives in an apartment that appears to be inhabited by 14-year olds. The best friends since third grade hang out one night and naturally begin talking about how they envy certain aspects of each others lives. If you've seen the trailer you know they end up pissing in a fountain and boom, as movie magic goes, the roles automatically reverse. That was my first issue with the movie-pissing in a fountain? Really? That's the best you got for a raunchy summer comedy? Why don't they wish it as they take hits off a magical bong or something?

Mitch and Dave try to convince Dave's wife Jamie
(Leslie Mann) of their current predicament.
The vulgarity is another thing to bring into question here. There is a time and place for everything but when Mitch enters Dave's house for the first time he is so seemingly inexcusable and ridiculous you wonder how anyone is friends with this guy. This point is also re enforced later in the film that brings into question the whole reason Dave would have ever desired trading spots with Mitch. Blame it on the alcohol I guess, but it mostly feels more shock value than quick wit with substance. That's not to say "The Change-Up" doesn't have its moments. there are more than a handful of occasions I caught myself laughing out loud due to the characterization of Reynolds and Bateman playing opposite type. This is the real charm of the film. To see Bateman play a free-wheeling, menace of a man as opposed to what we're used to seeing him play is hilarious. Neither actor merely does an imitation of the other, it is more of slight changes in the way Bateman cocks his head when he carries Mitch's persona or the way Mitch looks so lovingly into Leslie Mann's eyes. We see each of them learn, even if it is mostly due to Dave's hard work throughout life that we are brought the epiphany in both characters at the end (Dave realizes how lucky he really is and Mitch realizes he's done nothing with his life to earn the kind of respect Dave is receiving).

Dave's secretary Sabrina (Olivia Wilde) is the object
of much affection from both Mitch and Dave.
Director David Dobkin's only claim to fame is "Wedding Crashers" and even that film is one that was great based solely on the performances and chemistry of its two leading stars. The same could be said for "The Change-Up" it just will never fall into the same category as "Crashers" because the difference in premise is a gap far too wide. It is entertaining to watch Reynolds and Bateman go back and forth and be put in situations where they must improvise a lot of what must be done to survive it. They have a strong supporting cast as I mentioned Leslie Mann earlier who plays the very Leslie-Mannish wife to Dave. She is the cool, comedic suburban mom who knows just the right amount of bare truth to spill into her confessions and at just the right time but the act feels stale here and while Olivia Wilde seems to be in every other movie these days here she is underused and comes off like she is trying to fit in with the comedic big guns to her left and right. Sure, Wilde is enticing and can be funny, but she is no Emma Stone and we just don't see her ability taking the character any further than the thin outline of an archetype the writers gave her. Alan Arkin shows up for a few scenes as Mitch's dad, an unnecessary storyline, and then the film ends, just the way we expected it to. "The Change-Up" is a funny movie, it just happens to have opened in a summer where there have been much funnier, raunchier comedies with more heart and more wit. It is satisfying only until you leave the theater thinking about that other Bateman comedy you liked much more than this one.

No comments:

Post a Comment