Judging from all the talent on display, I thought "The Change-Up" might have potential to be one of the funniest movies of the summer. Director David Dobkin has made some very well-crafted comedies, including "Shanghai Knights" and "Wedding Crashers." Jon Lucas and Scott Moore, the screenwriting duo that previously brought us "The Hangover," wrote the film. On top of all that, "The Change-Up" stars Ryan Reynolds and Jason Bateman, two more-than-gifted comedic actors. Bateman in particular was great in two comedies earlier this year, "Paul" and "Horrible Bosses."
I was shell-shocked by just how painfully humorless the "The Change-Up" was. The film follows the exact blueprint of every other body-switching movie ever made, which was kind of expected. What I simply cannot forgive is the film's inability to produce a single laugh-out-loud moment. In its entire running time, "The Change-Up" offers only four or five slightly amusing one-liners at best. That's just distressing for a movie with so many A-list players backing it up.
Bateman plays Dave Lockwood, a lawyer who is too busy to spend any quality time with his wife, played by Leslie Mann. Every other night he has to wake up at 3 a.m. to tend to his newborn twins. In the opening scene, Dave attempts to change the diaper of one of the babies. The infant shoots poop all over his father's face as if his butt was a super soaker.
Reynolds is Mitch Planko, a slacker who dropped out of high school to pursue a failed acting career. Although Mitch is unemployed, he can still afford to live in a kick-ass apartment, drive a red sports car, and owns a wardrobe of nice clothes. I'm assuming that the apartment is rent controlled and everything else was a free giveaway.
The audience is supposed to believe that Dave and Mitch have been friends since third grade although they seem to be separated by almost 10 years of age. It might have made more sense if the movie had made them brothers or cousins, but I digress. One night the two take a leak in a fountain and wish that they had each other's lives. The next morning they discover that they've switched bodies. Why is it that the body switching always happens in their sleep? Wouldn't it happen immediately after they make the wish?
The film embraces its R-rating with plenty of nudity and the f-bomb incorporated into virtually every one of Mitch's lines. We also get an assortment of gross-out gags involving Mann's character stinking up the bathroom and Dave being seduced by a pregnant woman who's ready to pop. None of it's particularly shocking or, most importantly, funny. There's an especially grotesque sequence in which Mitch loses Dave's children in the kitchen. As one twin almost gets his hand shredded in a blender, the other miraculously throws a butcher knife across the room, barely missing Mitch's face. It feels more like something out of a horror picture than a lightweight comedy.
There's also an attempt to add a level of depth to the film as Dave realizes that he's been neglecting his wife and Mitch realizes that he's a quitter. It's entirely possible for a hard-R comedy to have heart and three-dimensional characters. Just look at "Bridesmaids." But here it just feels uneven with the flatulent material. It's hard to take a scene in which Dave's wife dishes out her feelings seriously when the previous scene featured Dave kissing the breasts of a mummified porn star against his will.
The biggest disappointment of all is the miscast pair of Bateman and Reynolds. While the two try hard in their roles, neither quite pulls off the task of switching identities. I truly believed Jamie Lee Curtis as a teenager trapped in a middle-aged body in the remake of "Freaky Friday." In "The Change-Up," it feels more like two actors simply doing impressions of each other. The audience also never buys that these men are life-long friends or even like each other that much. Chemistry is what makes or breaks a film like this. Unfortunately, "The Change-Up" is completely devoid of anything that resembles chemistry.