With the tried and (sometimes) true formula of body-swap comedies, you’re guaranteed to see at least a handful of the same things time and time again: two people upset with their current life, a mystical transformation (often preceded by lightning, a power outage, or at least a strong wind), two gaping pieholes at the moment of realization, and a slow, steady transformation into two of the world’s most outstanding people.
Sometimes it works (both Freaky Fridays), sometimes it doesn’t (The Hot Chick), and sometimes it works despite itself; there’s only one reason why The Change-Up is able to rise above the decades-old body-swap clutter and distinguish itself, and his name is Jason Bateman.
With a script straight out of the Farrelly Brothers recycling bin, it falls on Bateman as family man Dave Lockwood and (to a lesser extent) Ryan Reynolds as hedonist Mitch Planko to save the day; they do, and, by sheer will alone, are able to create one of the funniest movies of the summer– either because of or in spite of an almost astronomical level of raunch. (Let’s just say that the opening shot of baby poop rocketing into Dave’s mouth is among the more mild moments.)
One night, after a hefty amount of alcohol consumption, the two men wish (while urinating into a fountain) that they had each other’s lives– Dave feels like he missed out on his wild-and-crazy years since he married right out of college and is completely hung up on his legal career, and Mitch is apparently longing for a more grounded life than just scrounging his mold-ridden fridge for leftovers and answering 3 a.m. booty calls from wild-and-crazy women.
Faster than they can say Switch, they wake up in each other’s body.
After making it past the initial shock (and a setting a new standard for usage of the “F” word along the way) the two men realize that they had no idea what the other’s life really entails. Mitch discovers that Dave’s life is a non-stop barrage of responsibility– including a wilting marriage to wife Jamie (Leslie Mann), an imminent multi-million dollar merger at the office, and multiple ungodly-hour feedings of infant twins. As for Mitch… well, not even Dave could have guessed exactly how depraved the life of his best-friend-since-third-grade could be.
The first three-quarters of The Change-Up are non-stop hilarity as the two men make these discoveries and try their hardest to not permanently torpedo each’s respective life. And then things switch gracefully into life-lesson mode, as the two slowly come to realize they just need to work harder at making their own life better.
Plot-wise, there’s nothing here that hasn’t been seen before; since the original Hangover, screenwriters Jon Lucas and Scott Moore seem to have become content with just re-tooling old ideas instead of bringing anything new and different to the party. Thankfully there’s plenty of talent on the other side of the camera to prevent The Change-Up from falling flat on its two faces.
Bateman tackles the role of Mitch-as-Dave with a precision and timing that hasn’t been seen since his Arrested Development days; it’s almost as though he’s been waiting to bust loose after all those years of playing it straight. And Reynolds’ antic performance almost (almost) makes up for last month’s disastrous Green Lantern.
No, The Change-Up is not for the faint of heart. If you can’t appreciate or find humor in an expletive or two (or 600) or a heavy rotation of bathroom humor (and I mean real bathroom humor), then you may just find yourself wishing you could wash the taste of poop out of your mouth. For everyone else, you might just pee your pants from laughing so hard.