The Change Up
Rated R/105 min
Mitch Planko (played by Ryan Reynolds) is a responsibility-free ladies’ man and a total slob who, in the words of his disapproving dad (Alan Arkin), “never finishes anything.” Mitch’s best friend Dave (Jason Bateman) is a hard working lawyer with a bored wife (Leslie Mann) and three children; Dave wishes he could change places and live a care-free existence like Mitch and, one night, while they both urinate into a magical fountain (yes, you read that right), their souls swap bodies. Now, Mitch must take on domestic chores while Dave is both thrilled and repelled to literally live vicariously through his best friend.
The scene when Bateman is changing a diaper and the baby violently (and graphically) poops into his mouth was when I knew the movie wasn’t going to work for me. I like a good raunchy comedy but this is less like Bridesmaids and more like Van Wilder. There are some good laughs but it’s more foul than funny and doesn’t know whether it wants to be a sentimental parable or a filthy yuk fest.
The two leads are at their best when playing their initial characters, as Bateman is better being a reactive straight man and Reynolds is in his element as a care free wild man. Both have been solid in other roles both comedic and dramatic but both are slumming it here (though Reynolds is much better here than in Green Lantern). The script relies too much on profanity for easy laughs and scenes involving the making of a porn film and shaving one’s genitals don’t mix with the “tender” scenes involving the dysfunctional families of both Dave and Mitch.
Mann is outstanding once again, adding so much depth and emotion to a thankless role but she and Olivia Wilde (playing Bateman’s colleague) have roles that, when you think about it, are pretty sexist. There are also some jokes geared towards Japanese people that felt alarmingly racist, even in a non-PC comedy like this one. No holds barred is one thing, but how far do you go before it stops being funny?
The supernatural angle that propels the story is supposed to remind us of Big but the magic fountain is more in line with the similarly idiotic When in Rome. The plot line involving the disapproving Dad completely wastes Arkin and many jokes, like the big reveal on “Tatiana,” are too mean spirited to be funny.
Bateman and Reynolds are both fine actors but their casting short changes the high-concept premise. If it were, say, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Robert Downey Jr. swapping souls, you’d have a wild movie of two opposites struggling to impersonate one another. When it’s the star of The Proposal and Teen Wolf Too, you know things can’t go too haywire, because the actors are appealing but safe choices for their roles.
Basically a hard-R take on the “body-swap” movies of the late 80’s, there are some very funny one-liners and isolated moments but this pales completely next to Bridesmaids. This may be a nastier, more disgusting movie than Bridesmaids, but it plays more like a series of outtakes from The Hangover Part II than a great comedy.
Aside from Mann’s heartfelt work, it’s hard to care about these characters or the movie they’re in. It spends the first hour trying too hard to shock us, then piles on the sentiment and tries too late to engage our emotions. The movie would have been better and funnier if no one swapped souls and Bateman and Reynolds had to work out their problems without switching bodies and comparing penises.