Change-Up, The (2011)
Release Date: August 5th, 2011 MPAA Rating: R
Director: David Dobkin Actors: Ryan Reynolds, Jason Bateman, Leslie Mann, Olivia Wilde, Alan Arkin, Mircea Monroe, Andrea Moore, Taaffe O’Connell
he Change-Up” jumps right into bizarre, foul humor to lure audiences in with pure shock. CG babies are employed for uncomfortable laughs, especially as one unloads his bowels into the mouth of an unsuspecting father or rapidly beats his head against the bars of a crib like something out of “The Exorcist.” Bathroom jokes are taken to the extreme, hoping that raunchiness will smoothly replace cleverness. So too follows comedy involving children, which practically borders on child abuse (such as teaching jailyard justice to a little girl and allowing babies to toss around butcher knives or climb into blenders). The trick is all too apparent. But with a plot resembling “Freaky Friday” for adults, the R-rated laughs are necessary for uniqueness – clearly, the story barely possesses any.
In Atlanta, Mitch Planko (Ryan Reynolds) is something of a failure, having never grown up, living as a high-school dropout in a teen-oriented bachelor pad, fighting bums for furniture, wielding samurai swords for fun, smoking weed, and spouting vulgarities. He’s a man-child, disrespects his father (Alan Arkin), works as an actor in “lornos” (light pornography), and has a penchant for deviant sex. His best friend Dave Lockwood (Jason Bateman) lives on the opposite end of the spectrum. He prioritizes his work at a law firm, hoping to make partner, and never has time for himself. Between his twin babies, young daughter Cara (Sydney Rouviere), and loving wife Jamie (Leslie Mann), he can’t find time to just talk with his family.
When Mitch and Dave catch a baseball game, the two chat over their envy of each other’s lives, which leads to a drunken urination into a magical fountain. The next morning, the impossible happens – Mitch is in Dave’s body and Dave is in Mitch’s body. Thinking the solution is to recreate the previous night’s inebriated mishaps (like “Big”), they journey back to the fountain, only to discover that it has been moved and that it may take a week or more to learn of its new whereabouts. At first they panic, but then Mitch convinces Dave that they can assume their new roles while waiting – after all, Mitch is somewhat of an actor. What could possibly go wrong?
The setup is uninspired, but still a decent method for creating hilarious situations with disastrous consequences. Fortunately, it never gets so serious that it can’t return to its comedic roots, although the switched identities shtick is carried a bit beyond the logical turning point, making the resolution unrealistic (and tidy) even within the boundaries of pure fantasy. Role reversals aren’t new, but Jason Bateman pretending to be sexually uninhibited, preposterously wild and unspeakably crude is a delight to watch, similar to his costar Jennifer Aniston’s part in “Horrible Bosses.” He’s cast in his usual role, but then assigned to take it in the opposite direction. This ungentle contrast works well for Bateman, whereas Reynolds simply returns to his Van Wilder days. Coming from “Green Lantern,” it’s obvious he’s more cut out for coarse comedy than superhero tights.
Responsibility, family and a career must battle freedom and recklessness in a classic switcheroo scenario with a twist of nudity and crudity. Mitch learns to be a go-getter and to stop quitting (accomplishment issues are at a high), while Dave gets to take a break and date smoking hot associate Sabrina McArdle (Olivia Wilde), which is somehow classified as innocent flirtation. He essentially gets a vacation. Disquieting secrets are revealed and kinky sexuality explored – it’s divertingly vulgar but doesn’t have enough substance to entertain beyond a single viewing.
– Mike Massie