The Change Up (2011)

12 Apr

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Smith’s Verdict: *1/2

Reviewed by Tanner Smith

Not since “Your Highness” have I felt so unclean from a theatrical gross-out comedy in 2011. To get things straight, I am not against gross-out comedies. I’m only against gross-out comedies that have more “gross-out” than laughs. I mentioned “Your Highness.” That movie was obsessed with making sure that every single joke focused on one of two things—penises and weed. This movie, “The Change-Up,” released a few months later, is obsessed with making sure that when its story gets underway, every single joke is focused also two things—Jason Bateman and Ryan Reynolds switch bodies, and things get ugly.  

Yes, two people switch bodies in this movie as the main gimmick. This type of comedy has been used a dozen times—some to good use, some to bad. But to my knowledge, this is the first body-switch comedy with an R rating from the MPAA, implying that it’s aimed at adults. Well guess what, guys—there’s a difference between “adult” and “immature.” It’s like saying, Hey guys! Want to see projective poop shoot into Jason Bateman’s mouth as he attempts to change a baby’s diaper? Want to see exposed female breasts just for the sake of nudity rather than exoticism? Want to hear the “F” word repeated over and over and over until you realize it was written just to keep the “R” rating?

I don’t! When I saw that distasteful scene where Batman changes the diaper, I was saying to myself, “Wow, two minutes in, and already, this movie wants me to walk away.”

OK, I’m getting ahead of myself. But here you have it—the R-rated body-switch comedy. As is typical of body-switch comedies, you have to have the introductions to the characters that will the subjects of this change-up—show their jobs, show their homes, show their personalities. To the film’s credit, even in about fourteen minutes, those three are developed easily. We see Jason Bateman as Dave, a good-natured lawyer and a father of three; and Ryan Reynolds as Mitch, a lazy, wisecracking pothead. Since they envy each other’s lives and actually say to each other that one would prefer the other’s life, they get their chance to actually endure each other’s lives. Oh yeah, they make their wish while taking a leak in a public “magic fountain.”

So Dave’s mind is in Mitch’s body and vice versa. Mitch moves in with Dave’s wife (Leslie Mann) and takes over his job, but can’t quite cut it. Dave finds himself in the making of a “light porn” movie and hates how Mitch is now hitting on his wife, but he likes his newly found freedom because Mitch does practically nothing anyway.

OK, there you go with the story. Now for the humor—There are many gross-out gags, like getting a tattoo with Olivia Wilde as Dave’s co-worker (don’t ask where she gets her tattoo), but I just didn’t laugh very much. I mean, a few chuckles here and there, but when you have a gross-out comedy, it’s timing that matters. Not just simple gross-out gags. I felt dirty watching this movie—afterwards, I felt like taking a shower.  

I’m a fan of Jason Bateman’s dry wit that made him popular in TV’s “Arrested Development” and good movies like “Juno,” though I have to admit I have mixed feelings toward Ryan Reynolds—I liked him in “Definitely, Maybe” and in “Adventureland” and thought he was a legitimate good actor in “Buried,” but in many of his other comedies (“Van Wilder,” in particular), he comes off as just bland to me. Nevertheless, it would be interesting to see these two imitate each other in this movie in which these two…change up. (Yeah, “The Change-Up” is one of the most generic titles in recent memory.) But the problem is that once these two have switched personalities, there isn’t any promising material. I smiled when these two first acted off each other (as each other), but after a few minutes, it just wore off.

The biggest insult “The Change-Up” has to offer is the forced sentimentality that follows through in the final act. You know what I mean—basic sentiments are given, the guys learn things about themselves and other people they interacted with, and of course the soft music in the background that does the acting for the actual actors. Did the filmmakers forget that it was all followed by stuff like Olivia Wilde’s nudity, Leslie Mann’s intestinal disorder, Reynolds’ porn experience, and more? This has got to be the clumsiest adding-in of sentimentality I’ve ever seen in a comedy. “The Change-Up” goes out of its way to be vulgar and offensive and then it goes for the heart. Unbelievable.

“The Change-Up” had two good comic actors to make the idea work, and anything can be done well (see “Vice Versa,” see “Big,” see “Freaky Friday,” I could go on with a few others, I think). But the actors needed better material and the audience needed a break.

P.S. I just looked up body-switch movies and there are two others I can recommend, aside from the three I’ve already mentioned—“Peggy Sue Got Married,” starring Kathleen Turner; “Chances Are,” starring Robert Downey Jr.; and I kinda liked “17 Again,” starring Zac Efron. Oh, I should also mention “Being John Malkovich,” in which John Cusack became…John Malkovich.

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