The Change-Up (Universal Pictures, R)

The Change-Up manages to ground itself in just enough reality to make the story relatable without bogging the film down in even the barest hint of treacle.

 

 

A lot of guys would say that Mitch (Ryan Reynolds) has it all. And Dave (Jason Bateman), his best friend, would agree with that sentiment. Mitch has a day job as an actor that keeps his time free enough for mid-day masturbation sessions, plentiful pot smoking, and meaningless sex with a bevy of beauties. Meanwhile, Dave is a married father of three who wants a break from his harried life.

Dave envies Mitch’s freedom, while Mitch’s world is feeling a bit empty. Wouldn’t it be nice if Mitch and Dave could find a magic fountain that would allow them a taste of the other side? Oh, wait, there’s one now.

The Change-Up is a study in ridiculousness that manages to ground itself in just enough reality to make the story relatable without bogging the film down in even the barest hint of treacle. Sure, Dave and Mitch learn some lessons along the way, but that doesn’t mean they can’t use a thumb as a sexual apparatus or curse out a boardroom full of VIPs while they’re at it.

I’m glad the story stayed away from attempts to explain the magic behind their body swap. The last thing we needed was a course in curses or goddesses that got trapped in stone. After their initial shock wears off, Mitch and Dave work out what happened and how to get back into their own bodies. Luckily for us, though, the fountain in question goes missing so that the Dave and Mitch experiment can get interesting.

The filmmakers make full use of the R rating here. There are plenty of F-bombs, boobies, and what must be the raunchiest and most disturbing baby-poops-inappropriately scene ever committed to film. I never felt, though, that they were leaning on crudeness to move the movie along. The gags are laugh-out-loud funny and often shocking, plus we actually get a little bit of character development.

Not every movie can give us a sweet little girl throwing down badass martial arts moves, a half-naked, sex-starved pregnant woman, or a ninety-five percent naked Bateman yelling, “Hey, there’s freckles on my taint!” but The Change-Up makes it happen. We need something to break up Mitch learning to get serious and Dave learning to let go, don’t we? The gaining of wisdom is so much more fun when there’s nudity.

The performances of the two leads help make the movie fun to watch. Bateman and Reynolds essentially trade their typical roles in this film. I don’t know if two actors so widely typecast have ever had a joint opportunity like this, but it’s a likely bet that they’ll each get more chances to step out of their usual acting boxes now.

Reynolds does a good job of turning off his sarcastic frat boy swagger when he becomes Dave. You look at him and actually feel that someone significantly earnest and frazzled is trapped inside that cool exterior. Bateman, for his part, clearly enjoyed letting loose when reckless, raunchy Mitch takes over. The ghost of Michael Bluth has finally been exorcised.│Adrienne Jones

 

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