August 04, 2011

The Change-Up

Call Child Protective Services ASAP!

Grade: F

Director: David Dobkin

Starring: Ryan Reynolds, Justin Bateman, Leslie Mann, Olivia Wilde, and Alan Arkin

MPAA Rating: R

Running Time: 1 hr. 52 min.

During the opening minutes of The Change-Up, a baby projectile poops into his dad’s mouth. It’s the most telling scene in this revolting rehash, which apparently believes that a familiar formula becomes instantly edgy simply by smearing it with figurative (and sometimes literal) excrement.

The “body switcheroo” movie has been done (1940’s Turnabout) and done (Like Father, Like Son) and done (18 Again!) and done (Vice Versa) and done (Freaky Friday). The only discernable changes brought by The Change-Up are that the swap occurs between best bro buddies and the comedy is the hard-R variety.

Dave (Justin Bateman) is a ladder-climbing lawyer, husband and father of three who is weary of his pressure-cooker job and domesticated life. His friend, a profane, pothead lout named Mitch (Ryan Reynolds), is also a struggling actor living in a filthy bachelor pad who quit school plus pretty much everything he ever tried.

During a drunken night out, Dave and Mitch proclaim in unison that they wish they had the other’s life whilst urinating into a magical public fountain…you know, that old yarn. Presto chango, the next morning they awaken to the discovery that they have switched bodies.

Bateman and Reynolds are reliable comedic actors who cleverly portray two distinct characters. However, their performances are as creative as this tired gimmick gets. The rest of the film is an endless array of scatology and profanity foisted without wit or purpose, including when Dave’s booty call turns out to be a gravid nympho (Mircea Monroe), a startling number of race/religion-based wisecracks, and director David Dobkin’s predilection for showing as many characters using the toilet as possible.

A late stab at sappy sentimentality feels phony because writers Jon Lucas and Scott Moore (The Hangover) spend most of the film hurling hostility towards the very values they eventually try to prop up. Dave and Mitch don’t want to live each other’s lives until they decide they do, which only lasts until they decide they don’t again. In the meantime, Mitch abandons his desire to shag his best friend’s wife (Leslie Mann, natch) after witnessing her bout with diarrhea, while Dave declines to hookup with his gorgeous, sports & tattoo-loving secretary Sabrina (Olivia Wilde) only after going on two all-night dates and getting her naked.

At one point, Dave (as Mitch) finds himself trapped on the set of a lorno (light porn), forced by its demanding director to simulate sex with a busty, aging actress and a middle-aged lecher. The shame and disgust Dave feels can’t be much different than the cast of The Change-Up, or its audience.

Neil Morris

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