Let’s face it, a premise that centers around two people exchanging lives after peeing in a “magic” fountain not entirely original, ridiculous and there’s no sense in sugar coating it, stupid. However, if you through two very likable actors into the mix and a handful of decent laughs, that aforementioned “stupid” set up actually becomes a little more watchable and fun than I ever would have anticipated. As likable and funny as Ryan Reynolds and Jason Bateman are though, even they cannot completely overcome the generic parts of the film. THE CHANGE-UP is not the best or the funniest comedy of the year let alone the summer, but it is a perfectly adequate summer comedy but with very few tricks or surprises hiding up its sleeve.
Dave Lockwood (Jason Bateman) is a highly successful lawyer about to make partner and a dedicated family man who is best friends since childhood with Mitch (Ryan Reynolds), an unmotivated actor who sits around and smokes weed day in day out every day. One night after drinking and watching baseball they are walking and have to pee and do so in a nearby fountain and simultaneously say they wish they had each other’s life. So with Dave’s promotion and relationship with his wife and Mitch’s promiscuous sex life hanging in the balance the two have to find a way to make the most of the strange situation.
The first scene of THE CHANGE-UP sets the tone for what you’re going to get as Jason Bateman is changing his kid’s diapers there’s an extremely graphic exchange involving a baby’s fecal matter and Bateman’s face. That scene is the chief gross out of the film, but it makes an impression nonetheless. Naturally, since this is a film involving the exchange of people’s lives via urination in a fountain, it’s pretty hard to take much of the film seriously. Consequently, though the more emotional beats work and are actually very sweet, seem like they belong in an entirely different movie.
Reynold’s and Bateman are both extremely fun to watch and when it comes time to start playing the other’s character that’s when things get even more fun to watch. Bateman I believe had the more daunting task of playing Reynold’s far more rude and crude character but pulls it off very well. In fact while Bateman is playing the extremely arrogant and offensive part he comes across even harsher than the brief time Reynolds plays it. Somehow they both remain likable because the comedy is so obvious and not as mean spirited as it would usually seem. Leslie Mann is funny but does little more than what she’s usually asked to do in any of her other films and in a continuing dose of “why was this actor/actress cast,” Alan Arkin graces the screen for all of about five total minutes and Olivia Wilde has a minor role as well but definitely adds a welcome amount of playfulness to the film.
As far as the script and comedy the majority of the funny moments come from waiting to see what is going to come out of Mitch’s mouth. His character as played by both Reynolds and Bateman is blatantly inconsiderate and dangerously irresponsible, to a cartoonish extent. There are lengths to which most people are willing to look past blatant douchebagery, but there are moments in THE CHANGE-UP that I found it impossible that someone would act or say some of the things Mitch’s character says. Once the film decides to give his character more of an arc the film ends shortly after and it feels like more time could have been spent giving his character more humanity than watching him nearly destroy every relationship in his path.
It might be practical to lean heavily on the crude nature of one of the central characters in order to squeeze more comedy out, but given the last part of the film throws some drama in, the transition feels rushed and is less effective because of it. The screenwriters also dip into the poop well too many times- there’s not one, not two, but three separate scenes featuring someone taking a number two. This leads me to believe that the writers seem to believe that when in doubt write a scene involving poop or urine. That’s not to say that I didn’t get a laugh out of them, in fact the one involving Leslie Mann (featured heavily in the trailer) is quite funny in context and I’d think anyone who’s married might appreciate the joke more and get a good laugh out of it.
One a last note- this is an R rated raunchy comedy and there is a hefty amount of nudity featured but for all the boobs exposed, not once did any of them look real. Rather is plastic surgery on a “lorn” actress or body casts on the other characters nothing appeared natural. That goes for moments involving the two babies in the film as well there seemed to be an off-putting amount of CGI going into these scenes, not to mention how disturbing it is to see an infant waving around a clever or a butcher knife.
On a completely basic level THE CHANGE-UP is the turrets syndrome version of FREAKY FRIDAY, with lots of healthy bit of F-bombs and nudity. Ryan Reynolds and Jason Bateman certainly give the film a great amount of charm and the script does have a lot of very fun moments and big laughs. The comedy is somewhat undercut by the shaky execution of certain dramatic moments, a series of odd visual choices, over reliance on Mitch’s jerk character and two too many poop jokes. THE CHANGE-UP is the lesser of many R rated comedies this year, but I’m confident in saying it’s not a complete waste of time and there are quite a few laughs to be had as well as some sweeter moments for the ladies. However, despite its title, a significant chunk of the runtime THE CHANGE-UP is more of the same with a duo of extremely talented actors.