God help us, we’re all the way down to the ‘switched bodies’ plot getting a raunchy makeover, as if anyone asked for that. To be fair, “The Change-Up” had the potential to be much better than it is, but the filmmakers clearly mistook raunchiness for a complete lack of restraint. Fools. The best raunch-coms are the ones that know those two ideas are not mutually exclusive.
Dave (Jason Bateman) and Mitch (Ryan Reynolds) have been friends since childhood, which might explain why there’s still a connection, if a bit tenuous, as they reach their late 30s. Dave is a successful lawyer with lovely wife Jamie (Leslie Mann) and three kids, while foul-mouthed Mitch gets baked all day and auditions for roles in bad movies. Dave envies Mitch’s freedom, while Mitch wants Dave’s success. After a night a booze-fueled fun, the two relieve themselves in a fountain, each wishing to be the other. The next morning, they get their wish, and quickly realize just how difficult each other’s life is. The more difficult aspect of the switcheroo, though, is finding out how their loved ones truly feel about them, not to mention how each honestly feels about the other.
This whole raunch-com thing has been fun, hasn’t it? The problem is that six years into the movement (we’re counting 2005’s “Wedding Crashers” as the one that started this), it’s all been done, and now everyone’s stooping to embarrassing lows to come up with something that no one else has done yet, without considering whether or not it’s a good idea. Like, say, having a baby shit directly into someone’s mouth….in the opening scene. The other problem with the humor is that it just doesn’t make sense. At one point, Mitch and Dave try to convince a skeptical Jamie of the switch, so Dave (as Mitch) tells a story that only he would know, only he chooses a story so embarrassing to Jamie that she slaps Mitch (as Dave) for betraying her trust. (Any husband will tell you that this would never happen.) Also, don’t you think it would occur to Mitch to tell Dave that the girl coming to screw his brains out is ten months pregnant? And is any grown-up so dense that they’d put infants on a kitchen counter next to the knife block? Lazy, lazy, lazy.
And that’s a pity, because the two leads are having a field day with the material. Jason Bateman, the hardest working straight man in show business, lets it all hang out here, and while Reynolds sells the Mitch character much better, it’s fun to see Bateman step outside of his comfort zone and act like, well, a douche. Reynolds, however, has the better role, because he gets the quick laughs up front as himbo Mitch and then inherits the far better character arc as trapped Dave. Leslie Mann plays the shrill harpy far too often for someone with her comedic abilities, and while Jamie spends most of the movie veering between ill-tempered and heartbroken, she gets a couple of chances to show her stuff (and breasts, which was surprising). Olivia Wilde arguably has the most fun, though, getting to play both business professional and bad girl while being herself the entire time.
David Fincher’s “Se7en” is one of the most disturbing thrillers of all time, and the main reason for that is because of what it doesn’t show; the movie knows that the audience will come up with something far worse than anything they could put on screen. “The Change-Up” would have greatly benefited from that mindset. Instead of showing everything, how about teasing the audience a little? To paraphrase Patton Oswalt, the majority of the present-day raunch-coms all about coulda, not shoulda (again, see: baby shitting in someone’s mouth). “The Change-Up” could have used a whole lot more shoulda.(2.5 / 5)