Monday, January 7, 2013

"The Change-Up" (2011)

Starring Jason Bateman, Ryan Reynolds and Leslie Mann
Written by Jon Lucas and Scott Moore
Directed by David Dobkin
Rated R - Language, drug use, nudity
Running Time: 112 Minutes

Best friends Dave (Jason Bateman) and Mitch (Ryan Reynolds) couldn't be more different. Dave is a driven, hard-working attorney with a wife and three children while Mitch is an actor without much of a resume, doing just enough to get by and spending most of his time smoking pot and getting laid. But one night after quite a bit of alcohol, Dave confesses that he wishes he had Mitch's freedom while Mitch wants Dave's stability and family attachments. Later, the two friends end up making a wish while urinating in a magic fountain.

The next morning when they wake up, they discover they've somehow switched bodies. Realizing they need to undo this immediately, they try to find the fountain. Unfortunately, the fountain has been removed from the park for restoration, forcing the duo to wait until it is unveiled elsewhere. Meanwhile, they'll have to impersonate each other... and try not to ruin each other's lives. The problem, of course, is that Mitch has absolutely no idea how to be a husband, a father or a lawyer, and Dave is equally inept at being a ladies man party animal.

And somewhere along the way, they'll figure out exactly what is missing from their own lives.

Body-swap comedies have been around for a good long while. One seems to come along every few years, and sometimes they're good, sometimes they're best left ignored. "The Change-Up" melds the body-swap genre with the recent revival of R-rated raunchy comedies. The film is loaded with ridiculous dialogue, gross-out situations and other bits of absurdity geared squarely toward adults.

Bateman and Reynolds take the chance here to play against type. Now playing the womanizing partier, Bateman gets to let loose with some of the film's more excessively dirty dialogue, and he does so with gusto. Likewise, Reynolds plays the more straight-laced character. The film revels in putting these two in uncomfortable situations, like having Dave participate in Mitch's... unusual... sex life, or having Mitch try to deal with screaming, hungry, pooping children. Whichever character each actor is portraying at the moment, the two have pretty solid chemistry together.

Much of the fun of watching "The Change-Up" comes from watching these two interact in bizarre situations. Otherwise, the film is actually pretty formulaic, even if entertaining. It follows the same general plot as any other body-swap comedy, where the two people involved learn to improve something about their lives that's holding them back by walking a mile in someone else's shoes. Frankly, it's a fairly limited premise that relies entirely on its execution to succeed. "The Change-Up" really only succeeds because of Bateman and Reynolds having fun.

The script throws a few subplots in there in order to help the main characters grow. Leslie Mann plays Dave's exasperated wife, Jamie, who reveals to Dave (in Mitch's body) that she wishes her husband could slow down and have some fun and that the spark has gone out of their marriage. Alan Arkin also appears as Mitch's father, who wishes that Mitch could finally finish something he starts and not always take the easy way out.

Olivia Wilde has a small role as Dave's coworker, Sabrina, and love interest for Mitch... or maybe Dave? That part is a little confusing, since the relationship begins with Dave pretending to be Mitch. The film totally ignores that their relationship at the end of the film is based on false pretenses.

Still, "The Change-Up" is a reasonably diverting comedy. It's funny and gross, some of its attempts at sweetness fall short. It won't ever be a great comedy classic, but it's a good way to spend a Saturday evening.