Okay, so here we are – another body swap comedy. But this time it’s one I desperately wanted to like, since it stars two actors I personally find incredibly engaging and charming, Jason Bateman and Ryan Reynolds. So going in, I was pretty much ready to give it a free pass based on their presence, but sadly, by the end, I was left disappointed.
The Change-Up, in my view, is not a good film, despite some recommendations you may read.
Now, this comes with a caveat, in that The Change-Up is not an unenjoyable film, but this would rely on the mood you’re in when you go and see it. More on that later. But for now, I will instil an image in your mind. Within the first three minutes of this film, a CGI baby shits in Jason Bateman’s mouth. Moments later, Ryan Reynolds calls this same baby a bit “Downsy”. Your reaction to either of these scenes will decide whether this is the film for you or not.
The plot? Best buddies Mitch (Reynolds) and Dave (Bateman) have been friends for years, but due to their different priorities, have slowly been drifting apart. Dave is a hotshot lawyer angling for promotion at his law firm, while also bringing up three children. Mitch is a pot-smoking layabout (with an amazing apartment) with pretensions of acting. After finally meeting up and bonding again over baseball and alcohol, the pair decide they envy each other’s lives.
Dave has the job, the family and the marriage to the beautiful childhood sweetheart (a revealing, in many ways, part for Leslie Mann), while Mitch has the bachelor lifestyle, which entails sleeping with numerous women and doing what he wants, when he wants. This mutual love-in and envy comes to a head when the two decide to drunkenly urinate in a fountain and declare that each wants the other’s life.
Obviously, it’s a magic fountain, which grants their fantastical pee wish. Waking up the next day in the wrong body, what follows is a series of contrived misadventures involving the two’s attempts to live their lives. Look, Mitch/Dave has to wear a suit to work, and be racist to Japanese clients. Oh no, Dave/Mitch has to have faux-sex with a mature lady, as real Mitch is actually a soft-core porn actor. In between, of course, they find time to learn lessons about each other, friendship, and how to love what you already have.
Perhaps I’m being overly harsh here. The film does have some occasional warmth and charm, as well as some pretty funny moments. You can’t help but enjoy spending time with the two guys (although that they’re friends is pretty implausible – they literally have nothing in common) as they bumble their way through the film, and it does have a pretty neat scene where they try to explain to Dave’s wife what has happened, only for the classic “Ask me a question only I would know” line to completely balls up – both figuratively and literally.
Olivia Wilde also puts in an endearing turn as a legal secretary and dual love interest for both men, and again, she’s utterly charming and criminally underused. Still, I hold out hope that, one day, someone will give her the decent role her talent deserves.
However, the film is ultimately the same as every other body swap comedy ever made, except without the heart and unexpected humour or supporting characters that made something like 17 Again watchable and enjoyable. Realising this, the filmmakers have decided to throw in as many crude, gross-out scenes and swear words as possible. Look everyone, it’s shocking, so it must be funny! Laugh!
To their credit, sometimes it is funny, and I did laugh. Not often, and sometimes out of politeness, but it was still a laugh. But again and again, the same old clichés are pulled out. Mitch has daddy issues, Dave has sacrificed his family for his job, and lessons are learnt. There is nothing new in this film whatsoever, and its set-pieces aren’t memorable enough to gloss over that fact.
I don’t even expect every film to be a masterpiece, I just want to be entertained in a vaguely original way, and if you can’t do that, then at least emotionally engage with me in a way which will make me like or respect the movie. As it is, The Change-Up promised me a nostalgic take on the body swap comedy, starring two actors I would happily pay to see (though I probably should have learned my lesson after The Proposal).
What The Change-Up delivers is a flaccid and limp take on a familiar genre, with added boobs, poo and balls. But hey, there is a way you can definitely enjoy this film, and that’s to get really, really drunk before you watch it. Maybe then it would be awesome.