Directed by: David Dobkin
Premise: A married lawyer (Jason Bateman) and a bachelor (Ryan Reynolds) switch bodies and try to adapt to each other’s lifestyles.
What Works: Although these aren’t exactly Oscar caliber performances, the actors in The Change-Up do deserve some credit. After establishing their characters, Bateman and Reynolds do a fine job of imitating each other and making the body switch believable. Leslie Mann plays the wife of Jason Bateman’s character and although the film is confused about how to regard her, Mann’s dramatic moments really do pay off and lend the film its sole redeeming quality.
What Doesn’t: From the outset, The Change Up has several strikes against it from which the film never recovers. First, it is a body switching movie in the mode of Freaky Friday. The Change Up attempts to be an R-rated Freaky Friday but it is nevertheless a body switching movie. The body switch gag can work if it is done cleverly or uses the gag to provide some unique insight such as the film Being John Malkovich or the television show Quantum Leap. But The Change-Up isn’t interested in that and stays stuck in a premise that is tired and stupid. Second, The Change-Up is written by Jon Lucas and Scott Moore, who also penned Ghost of Girlfriends Past, The Hangover, and its sequel. Their work has been characterized by male characters who are chauvinist pigs and who spend the movie either trying to get away with idiotic behavior or being forgiven for it. The Change-Up is consistent with these writer’s worst tendencies but there is something a little uglier about The Change-Up than some of the writers’ other work. At least in the original Hangover, the film had a sense that we ought to laugh at—rather than with—the group of guys and managed to make them likable enough that we could cheer them getting to the wedding on time. Even though Bateman and Reynolds’ characters do grow over the course of the story, both of them are so horrible to women and to their families that the film places them beyond redemption from the outset and when it tries to go there it comes across disingenuous. Lastly, The Change-Up just isn’t very funny. There are plenty of gross out moments which are requisitely gag inducing but The Change Up suffers from the decade-worth of comedies that have come before it, all predicated on pushing the envelope of taste. Comedy is based, at least in part, on setting up expectations and then delivering a punch line that upends those expectations. The Change Up does not do that. It delivers exactly what the audience expects and tries to wrangle laughs out of just how far the filmmakers will go in their offense of popular taste. But this is offense for its own sake. It is lazy filmmaking that does not challenge anyone, least of all the audience.
Bottom Line: The Change Up is an awful film. It is not particularly funny and even though it goes pretty far in its efforts to gross out the audience there is no conviction to it. The film has no heart and no head.
Episode: #353 (August 21, 2011)