By R. David
Published August 5, 2011
Deep down I know “The Change-Up” is not technically a good movie. It’s clichéd, offensive and lazy. It starts slow and ends predictably. But it has a terrific mid section that, while also offensive and lazy, accomplishes the only thing that matters in a comedy: It made me laugh. Perhaps against my better judgment, and despite the fact that comedy doesn’t get any more lowbrow and formulaic than than the stuff on display here, but laugh just the same.
Credit mainly goes to a game cast, especially Jason Bateman, playing – yet again – Jason Bateman, and the invaluable Leslie Mann who constantly raises the bar of any film she’s in. Also, the script, while wildly over-the-top and far too reliant on lazy and predictable gross-out gags and vulgarities, somehow manages to sneak in just enough smart insight and commentary about the harried life of a family man trying to juggle a high-stress job and higher-stress household.
Bateman is Dave, a workaholic, father of three who begins to realize he wasted his 20s constantly striving for the perfect career and family. His childhood friend Mitch (Ryan Reynolds) is an unmotivated, unemployed layabout who spends his days smoking pot and his nights with any woman who falls for his good looks and carefree attitude. After a drunken night out, the two confess they wish they had the other’s life and, in a scene that defies any plausible reason or explanation other than, ‘well, it had to happen somehow’, the two switch bodies. Now Dave is Mitch and Mitch is Dave and, hey, a stoned slacker has to pretend to be lawyer! Hilarity ensues.
“The Change-Up’s” premise is not its strong suite. The body-switch thing has been done to death and its not as if many moviegoers have been clamoring for the glory days of “Vice Versa” and “Like Father Like Son”. Here, the old switcharoo is merely a gimmick that serves as a palate for all sorts of raunchy gags. Some hit, some miss. But where the film starts out rather flat, especially with Reynolds acting as a sort of Stiffler 2.0, throwing out all sorts of f-bomb laced dialog that feels awkward and forced, it eventually settles in to a nice rhythm, balancing raunchy humor with smart observations about both family and single life.
Some of the situations, brazen and often juvenile as they are are laugh-out-loud funny in spite of themselves. The scene with Bateman – as Reynolds – with his kids in the kitchen is so wrong, it nearly becomes an instant classic; and there are at least two or three memorably awkward sexual encounters, one with Mann that has been heavily promoted in the previews, but is more explicit – and funnier – than those previews suggest.
It’s “The Change-Up’s” go-for-broke, anything-for-laugh attitude that eventually won me over. None of these scenes are funny because they are new or original, but rather because the cast simply sells them so well. It’s worth noting too that this film has a major affection for breasts. So much so that even Mann is convinced to drop her top for the first time (though I do wonder if she had some CGI cosmetic surgery – if not, Kudos Leslie!). And, despite the fact that anyone who has ever seen a comedy of this type before knows where things are headed, the filmmakers manage to keep things interesting and entertaining despite heading full speed ahead to the inevitable.
“The Change-Up” certainly won’t be for all tastes and it is indefensible on almost every level should anyone want to challenge my recommendation. But, in spite of myself, I laughed. And there are good performances and enough smart writing to carry the viewer through the, admittedly considerable, lulls.
3 stars out of 4.