It’s a tale as old as time and as stale as those left-over everything bagels you brought home from the office two Fridays ago. Two humans living organisms, as different as night and day, cats and dogs, pee pee and poo poo, by some magical occurence swap bodies. Or minds. Or something.
With literally dozens of iterations over the years, one would correctly wonder what was left to explore in the body swap comedy. As it turns out, there is, or was, at least one viable and comedic avenue left unexplored: the R-Rating. Make no mistake, The Change-Up strives to be R-Rated. Perhaps falling short of the hard R of The Hangover (John Lucas & Scott Moore wrote both), director David Dobkin peppers the screen with breasts (more on those later), urination scenes, two instances of diarrhea, a thumb in the asshole, and plenty of other inappropriate gags and the endangerment of children.
While The Hangover proved that the R-Rated comedy can be both entertaining and lucrative, The Hangover II proved that just saying “fuck” a lot and repeating previous successes is no way to win favor. The deck seemingly stacked against this film, it managed to do something perhaps no one expected: it was funny. In my opinion, it’s the funniest movie of the year. Though it’s worth noting that I found Bridesmaids to be a weak affair, so I don’t expect to be in the majority opinion here.
What all who see the film will agree on though is Jason Bateman, the charming star who finally leads in a movie that’s worth watching. In terms of feature films, this is his shining star. As Dave Lockwood, he gets to play the caring husband, doting dad, and all around nice guy, albeit one a tad lacking in the fun department. Until the switch that is, when Bateman gets to channel the raucous bad boy Mitch Planko, an aspiring actor who only cares about getting high and getting laid.
Playing foil to Bateman is the ever amusing Ryan Reynolds, who (sorry ladies) strangely keeps his muscled physique mostly covered. It’s a pleasant change of pace for the Van Wilder star to ditch his partying ways, momentarily, and step into the shoes of a quieter character. A quieter character trying to be a bolder character. But still, it’s nice, and charismatic as Reynolds is, he’s definitely playing second fiddle to Bateman, who owns every frame of the film, whether he’s making racist jokes to Asian businessmen, swallowing shit, pouring milk on babies, or any other crazy thing the film demands of him.
As promised, an aside to the subject of breasts. In the film we see at least three pairs of breasts, though I’m not certain we ever see an actual pair. My meaning? The tits be fake, yo. One aging starlet pairs some silicon infused breastessess, and while the skin covering them might be real, there’s no way to tell. In another scene, we get a glimpse of what are supposedly Leslie Mann’s boobies, though they don’t match her build and appear to be a prosthetic with a little digital sweetening.
Let me repeat that. The breasts are fake. Special effects fake. Possibly with a few thousand dollars of digital effects overlaying it. What does this mean? It means Leslie Mann asked for so much money to bare her breasts that it was more economically feasible to go through all that trouble. Also, it means the movie has fake, prosthetic boobs in it, which is just weird.
Female bits aside, The Change-Up tries and tries again during the first half of the film to shock you with its R-Rated naughty bits, though this falls to the wayside about half-way through as the characters start to realize the pleasantries of the swap are short lived – kind of. Initially, as expected, both men are horrified to have swapped places. Then they seem to enjoy it. Then they wish to track down the magical fountain, piss in it, and return to the lives. For a few minutes. Because something strange and new and a little bit wonderful happens that doesn’t usually find itself in the formula.
This little twist of the genre is welcome, though it may make the characters a little less likable. I mean, after all, it does take them a bit longer than usual to realize that they like their lives. In fact, throughout the film, the characters make poor decisions, whether it’s being argumentative towards parents or neglecting other family members. The guys aren’t great people through the film, but I think the realization that they do, in fact, need to change their ways is realistic and somewhat profound. It just happens to be that this profound moment is surrounded literally by shit and piss.
The Change-Up is in a strange place: an old concept, two great stars, a raunchy R-Rated first half and something of a heart at the end. I don’t think this movie will be a hit with everyone – most people either want heart or fart, not 50/50. But for me, the outlandish performance by Jason Bateman balanced with the charm of Ryan Reynolds was enough to keep me interested during the last half, while the fart and titty jokes in the first 45 minutes kept me giggling.
The Upside: Jason Bateman carries the film, delivering a top-notch asshole performance.
The Downside: The boobs are fake and the tone switches from raunchy to … less raunchy… at the midway point.
On The Side: Jason Bateman and Ryan Reynolds have been real life friends for over a decade and Jason Bateman is surprisingly attractive in person. Wait what? No homo. That’s what I’m supposed to say right? No homo?