Review by Derrick Carter
Running Time: 1 hour 52 minutes
MPAA Rating: R for Pervasive Strong Crude Sexual Content and Language, some Graphic Nudity and Drug Use
Directed by: David Dobkin
Written by: Jon Lucas & Scott Moore
Starring: Ryan Reynolds, Jason Bateman, Leslie Mann, Olivia Wilde, Alan Arkin & Mircea Monroe
If one were to look at some of the major comedies starring big name actors in recent years, they’d find a decent amount of retracing material from older films. These aren’t out-and-out remakes, but they do seem to be borrowing quite liberally. For example, take into consideration DUE DATE (borrowing from PLANES, TRAINS AND AUTOMOBILES), THE SITTER (ADVENTURES IN BABYSITTING) or HORRIBLE BOSSES (THROW MAMA FROM THE TRAIN, although they actually address that film within the script). THE CHANGE-UP was released in Summer 2011 without a whole lot of enthusiasm and bombed domestically at the box office. It’s essentially an R-rated retelling of FREAKY FRIDAY starring grown-ass men and set over a longer time period than a single day. Quite a few solid moments work, but ultimately the film winds up a bit bogged down in and unnecessary lengthy running time and a deep message at the heart of the story that simply doesn’t belong.
Dave is a married lawyer with three children. Dave’s routine is made up of working his ass off and taking care of the kids. Mitch is a single man with no routine whatsoever. When Mitch is not starring in bit parts as an actor once a year, he’s in his apartment getting stoned and having sex with random girls. Dave and Mitch have been best friends since they were kids and have stayed close, despite their radically different lifestyles. After a night of drinking and verbally venting to each other, the two are pissing in a mysterious park fountain and both utter at the same time “I wish I had your life.” When the morning comes, their wish has become a horrifying reality. They have somehow wound up in each other’s bodies. Fish-out-of-water hijinks ensues as both men try to find a way to switch back and try not to wreck the life of the other person. This is made more difficult seeing as Dave is currently close to a huge promotion and Mitch has recently received a big starring role in a movie.
In body-switching movies, some unusual talent is forced out of the performer in said body-switching role. They have to play two entirely separate characters. Both Bateman and Reynolds are up to the task. Bateman goes from hard-working family man into slacker trying to put on the appearance of hard-working family man, all while Reynolds goes from slacker into man with newfound freedom and nervousness at all the hot new women interested in him. It’s a fish-out-of-water premise that does have some solid laughs to be had. Some of the best of these either come from one of the two completely altering decisions that the other man (in their original body) had made or secrets being revealed on the spot to the unsuspecting body-switcher. The introduction of a hot new woman Mitch has been meeting up with is a doozy and provides some pretty disgusting punchlines.
THE CHANGE-UP has some faults in its length and a tonal switch near the end that doesn’t jive well with the rest of the film. At nearly two hours (even longer if you’re watching the Unrated version), things can get stretched and padded. Some of these scenes are brought on by a would-be heartwarming message that’s found at the center. The problem with this sudden change in direction is that up to that point nothing was ever given to indicate that the film would be heading in this direction, so any heavy-hitting emotional moments feel a tad unearned. There are fantastic comedies that are simply a joy to watch due to a crude nature combined with some emotional content (e.g. KNOCKED UP), but THE CHANGE-UP seemed just like a regular R-rated comedy that supplied some dirty laughs and nothing else. The tonal switch didn’t help things and in fact, hindered them due to some more space dedicated to this cheesy content.
Overall, THE CHANGE-UP is a decent time-waster. The jokes do hit their marks most of the time and I appreciated that the film went into some unabashedly disgusting territory that did supply some gross punch lines. Reynolds and Bateman play well alongside each other, while everyone else (including Leslie Mann, Olivia Wilde, and Alan Arkin) are merely means to move the plot forward. The film is too long and fumbles with a would-be message, but it’s still an okay flick. Can’t really say I’d recommend it whole heartedly, but if it were on late-night cable then I’d probably watch it again.