Ryan Reynolds, Jason Bateman, Olivia Wilde, Leslie Mann
It’s the central pairing of Reynolds and Bateman which will keep the audience consistently engaged
Long time friends Mitch (Reynolds) and Dave (Bateman) couldn’t be more different – Mitch is a carefree bachelor with a string of women at his beck and call while Dave struggles to balance work with the pressures of three young children and an increasingly harried wife (Leslie Mann). After many drinks and some nocturnal micturation in a magical fountain, the two wake up the next morning in each other’s bodies. As they search for the fountain to undo the mistake, each gains some perspective on each other’s lives.
Say hello to another body swap comedy – you’ve seen this before in countless guises from a massive age gap, racial divide or even a different gender. By those standards, The Change-Up is pretty limited fare – Mitch and Dave are both roughly the same age, white and financially sound. The crises they face are also fairly low key; business meetings, family time and the horror of dating a particularly delectable Olivia Wilde.
The Change-Up could easily have disappeared into sub genre obscurity but is saved by two things; a higher age rating and some memorable lead performances. The pursuit of an R-rating gives the filmmakers unusual freedom here for everything from nudity to profanity. The result may not be the classiest of pictures (beginning, as it does, with some explicit scatological imagery) but it lends a reality to the reaction of the clueless central characters while helping to move the tone of the piece closer to a regular raunchy comedy – courtesy of the screenwriters behind The Hangover.
But it’s the central pairing of Reynolds and Bateman which will keep the audience consistently engaged. After a career high year, Reynolds seems to be relishing the chance to get into foul mouthed gear, painting Mitch as an unrepentant asshole with no ability to self censor. He openly swears in front of children and steamrolls through every situation with a barrage of f-bombs. Bateman is more sedate but the two bounce off each other brilliantly. And once the roles are reversed, each makes an attempt to channel the other in their mannerisms, with Bateman coming off the best.
Apart from a fun turn from Wilde and some nice hysterics from Mann (plus a smattering of rampant nudity which we suspect required head replacement work) the rest of the cast are pretty nondescript. The Change-Up also suffers from a slight story built on contrivance and geared more towards set pieces than narrative flow. And considering the subject matter, it never seems to aim for anything resembling an emotional peak – despite Bateman’s increasingly fraught marriage, leaving the ending less effective than it might have been.
Yes, The Change-Up is yet another body swap comedy but it distinguishes itself with two impeccable leads and a dirty minded sensibility that you’ll hate yourself for enjoying.