The Change-Up – Really Changes Nothing Up

By Scott Martin

The Change-Up is a movie that tests the attention span – and maturity – of its audience. The Change-Up, USA, 2011

Directed by David Dobkin

The Change-UpAt seems that at least a few times a year, movies are released that test the attention span -and maturity – of their audience. I’ll be the first to spoil the big surprise here: there’s a projectile poop scene. The review almost writes itself. Take Jason Bateman, who seems to be one of the busier actors this year, and put him with Ryan Reynolds, who seems to be one of the busiest actors in general, and put them in a Freaky Friday rehash, and you might expect some comic gold, right? Well, your head is in the right place, but your expectations might be too darn high. What we’re given instead is one of the raunchiest (for the mere sake of being raunchy) comedies I’ve seen in a long time. This makes Reynolds’ work in Van Wilder (2002) seem like The Adventures of Elmo in Grouchland (1999). And that’s being kind.

As I mentioned before, yet feel the need to point out again, there’s a projectile poop scene. With no build-up. That’s how we’re told what kind of movie this is; all the intelligence of subtle comedy is thrown out the window for the chance to have a kid drop a deuce on Jason Bateman’s face from across the room. The Exorcist (1973) never seemed more watchable, right? And I’ve never longed for a Lindsay Lohan movie more than when I was watching this. Sure, the R-rating for “everything under the sun” should have given the crudeness away, but not the lack of intelligence, nor the lack of faith in its audience.

Our story begins with Dave Lockwood (Bateman) being a good guy; he’s a father of three, a dutiful husband, and an excellent lawyer on the brink of the biggest corporate merger of his career. Inexplicably, his best friend is Mitch Planko (Reynolds), a pot-smoking, lecherous, struggling actor living the life of his dreams – no life at all. Our story really only begins when Dave and Mitch go to a bar to watch a game, as they haven’t hung out in a while, which makes sense because they’re busy. Well, Dave is busy; but never mind. They go to the bar and get far more drunk then men of their age should, and Dave falls in love with Mitch’s lifestyle while he listens to Mitch go on and on about the random women he’s sleeping with, including the enigmatic Tatiana (Mircea Monroe). Sounds great, right? I’m not a saint, and I certainly understand the struggle of monogamous relationships, but Dave seems a bit more unhappy than he should. He avoids couples therapy with his wife, Jamie (Leslie Mann) and wishes instead for Mitch’s life. Mitch, for his part, wishes for Dave’s life. As they pee together. In a fountain. Drunk. In public.

This is our movie. There’s a rolling blackout, and by the time they wake up the next morning, they have gotten their wish. Dave wakes up in his home next to Jamie and has to take care of their three children while Mitch’s personality drives him, and Mitch wakes up and has to go to his first big movie role as Dave. This is the only actually funny thing in the film, as it’s a “lorno movie,” or a “light porno,” for those of us not in the business. Now, I’m only a writer, but I make a decent living doing the things I do, and as bad as I want to work in film (it’s the dream, yeah), even I wouldn’t take a “lorno.” Still, the scene is damn funny, mainly because Reynolds is a talented actor and mimic.

One more thing that drives my distaste in the story and film is that this is one of those films whose trailer contains all the funny moments. Unfortunately, the funny moments in the trailer aren’t actually in the film, so in this case, the film is not nearly as funny as its trailer. The story reaches its obvious outcome, in which everything is set right and all is well again, as Dave and Mitch each learn to appreciate the lives they have. And they pee together in a fountain, drunk in public.

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