Saturday, August 6, 2011

Despite A Rocky Start, The Change-Up Is Fun And Funny!

The Good: Moments of acting, Moments of character
The Bad: Some very base humor that does not fit the rest of the film, Very predictable plot.
The Basics: When Mitch and Dave switch bodies, the bachelor gets a chance at married life and the married man has the opportunity to recapture the irresponsible time he never actually lived.

Before I got married, I knew many things about my (now) wife. One aspect of her personality that I got to know very early on was that she has an obsession with ridiculous comedies. She loves them and given the choice to go out to the movies, she will choose a silly comedy over the blockbuster special effects film almost any day of the week. So, today when we made the choice to go out to the movies, it did not surprise me that she opted for The Change-Up, a vehicle for her favorite, Ryan Reynolds and Jason Bateman, whose work she almost always seems to enjoy. Despite having read a review from Roger Ebert, whom I usually agree with, that panned the film, I eagerly went with my wife to The Change-Up.

For once, I think Roger Ebert got it wrong. Sure, there is one of the worst poop jokes in the history of film in the first five minutes of the movie and that is more unsettling than at all funny, but The Change-Up is both funny and solidly entertaining. Writers Jon Lucas and Scott Moore, who have written some schmaltzy movies like Four Christmases (reviewed here!) and The Ghosts Of Girlfriends Past, come closer to their hit (The Hangover) with The Change-Up. In fact, The Change-Up has the potential to give Friends With Benefits a real run for their money at the box office for two reasons: 1. Friends With Benefits gave away so many screenings as to almost sate the need of the moviegoing audience and 2. The Change-Up goes a long way to appealing to women with a message about married life that is surprisingly poignant.

Dave wakes up in the middle of the night and, in his sleep, takes care of his two twin babies. Dave is on the eve of making partner at the law firm he works at and an important merger looks like it will seal the deal for him. But Dave's marriage to Jamie is fading as they both are constantly busy. Mitch, Dave and Jamie's friend from high school, dropped out to become an actor and has been living the single life since. Dave sacrifices a planned hour talk with Jamie by going out for a night of drinking and watching a baseball game with Mitch. At the end of the night, they urinate in a fountain and head their separate ways.

Mitch wakes up in Dave's bed, telling the kids to shut up. He is freaked out to realize that he has Dave's body and he heads to his apartment to try to determine what has happened. He is unsurprised that Dave is occupying his body and the two figure they switched bodies when they peed in the fountain. Unfortunately, the fountain is being cleaned before it is moved to a new location and will not reappear in the Atlanta area for a few weeks. So, Mitch heads to Dave's work to try to complete the merger, in the process botching the contracts and forcing the two companies into mediation. Dave, on the other hand, heads to Mitch's job, which is currently a light porn shoot. After being repulsed by their first day in each other's bodies, they try to tell Jamie and she laughs at them. Spurred on by a chance meeting where Mitch's father accidentally tells him (thinking he is talking to Dave) that he thinks Mitch is a screw-up, Mitch decides to try to try to see through the mediation and take care of Dave's kids. Dave, meanwhile, uses the opportunity to go on a date with Sabrina, from his work and play the field like he was never able to before.

The Change-Up has a ridiculously simple plot and it is somewhat passe. In fact, there is nothing truly unpredictable in the film, which is likely to disappoint seasoned cinephiles. The ultimate resolution to the film is very much what one would expect for a summer comedy, so anyone looking for a real shocking movie will be disappointed. Even with a predictable plot, though, the writers and director manage not to use all of the cliches. I was pleasantly surprised, for example, when Dave gets an important call late in the movie he does not try to keep the information from Mitch.

That said, The Change-Up works because it is funny. Lucas and Moore are very funny and outside the jokes about pooping, the humor works exceedingly well. Easily better than their sequel to The Hangover, The Change-Up has the chance to endure longer because it has more of a statement than the sequel did. The Change-Up has a message, which is that there must be a balance between responsibility and freedom. Dave has been devoted to work, Mitch has never seen anything through; by assuming one another's lives, they learn the importance of the other's way of life and alter their life accordingly.

But more than that, The Change-Up has characters who are largely likable. Mitch is foul-mouthed and often lazy. When his father arrives, he is getting stoned at nine a.m.! But Dave's life illustrates how equally unfulfilling the archetype of the successful male may be. He has reached almost all of his goals, sacrificed constantly, but neither he nor his wife are truly happy. Mitch's lifestyle leads him to impart some sense of balance in Dave's daughter's life and Dave's lifestyle teaches Mitch how to follow through and actually care about other people. While Dave takes some time off, he grows to appreciate Jamie more and recall what he truly saw in her.

Director David Dobkin creates a film where the viewer actually cares about the characters. Despite how predictable the overall plot is, I found myself actually caring about how the merger Mitch is working on as Dave will turn out. Sure, it is utterly unbelievable that Mitch could survive in the office environment for the weeks needed to make the deal happen, but as the merger is going down, I actually found myself thrilled, which is something I seldom feel at the movies anymore.

What The Change-Up has going for it in addition to likable characters is wonderful acting. Alan Arkin, Olivia Wilde and Leslie Mann all give decent supporting performances to Jason Bateman and Ryan Reynolds. Reynolds is back with his amazing comedic timing and there are moments he delivers his lines where he gets the cadence right to believably be a character played by Jason Bateman. Bateman, on the other hand, has a much harder acting task in some ways. Reynolds plays so many very different characters, whereas Bateman has a much more distinctive, deadpan, style. Bateman's acting triumph here is in completely divorcing himself from his distinctive style.

All in all, The Change-Up is a surprisingly good date movie and one that is likely to be appreciated by the women who get through the first ten minutes of the movie.

For other works with Jason Bateman, please check out my reviews of:
Horrible Bosses
The Switch
Couples Retreat
Forgetting Sarah Marshall
Arrested Development


For other film reviews, please be sure to visit my index page by clicking here!

© 2011 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.

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