a critiQal film review The Change-Up (2011)

  • DVD
  • Blu-Ray

Plot: To his best friend Mitch (Reynolds), Dave (Bateman) has it all: beautiful wife Jamie (Mann), kids who adore him and a high-paying job at a prestigious law firm. To Dave, living Mitch’s stress free life without obligation or consequence would be a dream come true. Following a drunken night out together, Mitch and Dave’s worlds are turned upside down when they wake up in each other’s bodies. Despite the freedom from their normal routines and habits, the guys soon discover that each other’s lives are nowhere near as rosy as they once seemed.

582 words (Est. Reading Time 2m 54s)

Back in the 80’s, body swapping was extremely popular in the film world (giving us films like Vice Versa, Like Father, Like Son, Dream A Little Dream and more), but that fad has died down more in recent years (only to be resurrected for some really bad flick like The Hot Chick).

Now, Hollywood has set it’s sights on making body-swapping flicks fun again, and, at least on paper, they seem to have hit on the right formula. Pick two comedic actors (Jason Bateman and Ryan Reynolds), toss in a lot of crude humor (they swap bodies after drunkenly urinating in a fountain) and mix.

But, will The Change-Up prove to be as funny as it sounds, or is this the final nail in the body-swapping coffin?

Jason Bateman, despite some forays into other genres, always has and always will be a comedic actor, and does his best playing it for laughs, so having him back in comedies lately (this film, The Switch (2010) and Horrible Bosses (2011)) can’t be anything but good. In The Change-Up, he plays the laughs for all their worth, and his transformation into Reynolds’ character in his body is laugh-a-minute. Whether his character is picking up toddlers by the scruff of their neck or showing up for an important meeting as foul-mouthed caricature of himself, he has the viewer right in the palm of his hand – and his finger on their funnybone.

Ryan Reynolds, whose comedic efforts have been stunted lately (the disappointing Green Lantern (2011)) is also in fine form for The Change-Up, showing the viewers why they like his wry quips and dry sense of humor all over again.

The storyline is typical of the body-swapping genre – two people, whose lives are complete opposites of each other, swap bodies accidentally only to discover you really do have to walk in a man’s shoes for a day to know who he is. Still, with Reynolds and Bateman keeping the viewer in stitches, that typical, rather formulaic, storyline is fleshed out as well as it ever has been, keeping the viewer sticking around gladly until the end.

Since this is the age of the Judd Apatow, profanity-strewn R-rated comedy, however, there are a few things that distinguish this recent body-swapping from it’s predecessors. The profanity is loud and plentiful, and that actually seems to work well with the film, but it’s the gross-out humor that falls a bit flat. When one of the first sequences involves Bateman’s character getting hit full in the face with some projectile baby poo, most viewers might think the film’s funny is over before it even begins. Thankfully, however, the film manages to recover, and it’s later scenes (including a hilarious atypical flatulence sequence) manage to work a bit better.

Sure, going into The Change-Up, the viewer basically already knows what’s going to happen – the two pals swap bodies, go through some trials and tribulations and eventually switch back, now having a fresh appreciation for their own lives, and strive to then make them better – but it’s the getting to that eventual ending that provides all the fun in this film.

With Reynolds and Bateman giving the viewers plenty to laugh about all the way, while still managing to flesh out their characters enough to make the viewer care, The Change-Up, despite that gross sequence near the beginning, manages to turn out to be a solid (R-rated) laughfest…and it’s been a long time since a body-swapping movie could say that.

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