THE CHANGE-UP

THE CHANGE-UP (2011)

Running Time: 112 mins.                      Rating: x Stars/5 Stars

MPAA Rating: R

Director: David Dobkin

Genre: Comedy

Country: USA

Language: English

Distributor: Universal

Cast: Ryan Reynolds, Jason Bateman, Leslie Mann, Olivia Wilde, Alan Arkin

 

My expectations for THE CHANGE-UP were set, like many unsuspecting public transit riders, by the cutesy ads that have smeared our subways for the past several weeks: Ryan Reynolds, our sexy and dangerous protagonist, switches lives with Jason Bateman, the established, successful (and probably pretty boring) foil. The film opens up, much as our audience may have come to expect, with an unsuspecting Dave played by Bateman mechanically waking up to change his son’s diaper. We follow Dave’s mundane and unglamorous life until the first ten minutes of the film thankfully expire, when the eye candy promised to so many estrogenical fans finally makes its first appearance. Unfortunately, Ryan Reynolds’ Mitch manages to paint an even more pathetic portrait; a struggling actor living in a bachelor pad, he spends his days smoking marijuana, sleeping, and…indulging in a bit too much pornography.

Despite (or, perhaps, due to) his lackluster experience and apparent failure as an upstanding human being, Mitch seems to have a pretty solid grasp of what life really means. He views Dave’s own life with deep envy, barely masked by his sharp but hollow criticisms. Dave, on the other hand, maintains perpetual (and unrealistic) fantasies for his sexy colleague Sabrina (played by Olivia Wilde). What would sex be like with another woman? Have I been missing out on the best sex of my life for the past ten years of marriage? (Ultimately Dave, like most of us, will never know.) Mitch, however, describes Sabrina as the number one girl on his “cancer list”; astonishingly, a list men (apparently) conjurer up to narrow down the women whose company they would indulge in should their wives be stricken with cancer. Offensive jokes have been funny in the past.  SOUTH PARK, THE ARISTROCRATS, and numerous other smut-coms have proven this fact.  Unfortunately, offensive isn’t funny unless it’s clever, and THE CHANGE-UP provides ample evidence to this point.

In a IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE-esque twist, Dave and Mitch awake the next day finding they have switched bodies. Dave’s wife, Jamie (Leslie Mann), provides the audience with at least some reason to remain in their chairs – her character remains a sliver of comedy in what is otherwise a fairly disappointing affair. Mann helps make married life look like the joke it often is and manages to make a believable, tear-filled breakdown that helps give one of the film’s first, and few surprises. Unfortunately there isn’t much worth saying about the actual body of the film; some unfunny jokes are uttered, some are tried and re-tried, twists are plotted, and we’re on our merry way.

Eventually, Dave and Mitch come to accept that they will be each other, forever. And maybe this is a good thing! Dave wants to get laid, Mitch wants to settle down. Mitch, however, begins to present his resentfulness for the hand he’s been dealt: “I can’t sleep with my wife and I can’t sleep with other women.” Welcome to married life. Eventually everyone misses their old lives, re-hashing a device that has been employed since 1904, and we fast-track to the happy return to their own lives. What did we learn from all of this? The grass is rarely greener on the other side. My mother told me this when I was 9: ‘this pearl of wisdom didn’t cost me $14 and 101 minutes to absorb, save your money, and buy your loved one some flowers’.

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