The Change-Up

The Change-Up


Reviewed by: David Graham

The body swap comedy is a strange but surprisingly robust sub-genre, tapping into the sort of wish-fulfillment fantasy and karmic moralising Hollywood loves to exploit. Over the years we've had characters switching between mother and daughter due to a bad case of the Freaky Fridays, psycho killer and virtuous cop thanks to a very literal Face/Off, we've had slobby criminals becoming Hot Chicks, deceased black comedians getting back Down To Earth through old white businessmen, and just about every conceivable combination of the above (guilty pleasure/genre nadir White Chicks probably takes the cake for most outlandish switcheroo). Director David Dobkin had a sizable hit with the raucous Wedding Crashers, and works best here when his situations get similarly debauched, but sadly the need to get a message across neuters much of the film's crowd- pleasing potential.

Successful family man Dave is out on the lash with his unlikely best buddy and womanising waster Mitch. In a moment of supportive bromance, they try to make themselves feel better by admitting to coveting each other's lifestyle. One drunken piss in a magical fountain later sees the pair wake up in each other's skin, with Dave freaking out about the havoc the grossly irresponsible Mitch might cause at home and in work for him. However, the perks of each other's position soon become clear; Dave gets to relax for once in his life, using his new-found hotness to pursue a romance with his supermodel-esque secretary, while Mitch puts up with the babies and boardrooms because he's getting to bed his friend's luscious wife. It's not long before the pair hanker after their old lives again though, and have to coach each other through their predicament while searching for the elusive fountain that will hopefully return everything to normal.

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It's not the most radical of set-ups but there's obvious opportunity for plentiful fish- out-of-water laughs. Unfortunately, as with many of these films, the two different sides of this story's equation are woefully imbalanced. Ryan Reynolds and Jason Bateman begin by plying the same tired schtick they've done to death in other, better movies, but in a way this works by building expectation for post-switch hilarity. Sadly, only one of these talented comic actors comes out of the subsequent scenes well; Bateman takes the Van Wilder star's fratboy irreverence and actually outdoes him at his own game, while Reynolds is left playing the less appealing nice guy, perhaps in a bid to show the actor's soft side. As if the ladies didn't love him already.

Mitch's bull-in-a-china-shop approach to Dave's life raises plenty of outrageous laughs - his hopeless bluffing through some crucial business meetings is played to cringe-inducing perfection by Bateman, while the way he manhandles the kids and talks trash to the ever-reliable Leslie Mann's suburban mom supplies many of the film's best and most un-PC moments. It's an unbridled pleasure to see Bateman off the leash for once, cutting loose from his frustrated everyman roles in the likes of Horrible Bosses. On the flip-side, Reynolds is wasted and weak in the crass romantic subplot, uncomfortably playing on chauvinistic ideals of adultery without consequence, despite the ridiculously attractive Olivia Wilde bringing a little more spark and substance to her dream-girl role than you might expect.

Dobkin strives to communicate some sincere life lessons amidst the histrionics of the manic climax, but it probably isn't advisable to expect anything deep or meaningful from a film whose sense of humor is set out at the start by projectile baby poop ending up somewhere predictably bad taste. Despite being energetically mounted and well-enough made, The Change-Up isn't funny enough as a gross-out gag-fest or charming enough as a showcase for its stars playing against type. The film will also offend some viewers with its dim view of male desire and women as mere objects of it, while the usual suspension of disbelief required for this sort of nonsense is tested to breaking point by the age gap between the actors playing its 'school pal' central characters. It's just about worth catching for the relish Bateman takes in subverting his familiar persona, but it could have been much better with a sharper script, more satisfying plot and fewer well-worn cliches.

Reviewed on: 15 Sep 2011
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The Change-Up packshot
A harried husband and father finds himself in the body of his freewheeling, promiscuous best friend.
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Director: David Dobkin

Writer: Jon Lucas, Scott Moore

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

Year: 2011

Runtime: 112 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: US


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