In it’s first few minutes, “The Change-Up” gives the viewer a glimpse of a CGI animated baby anus, which, as anticipated, shoots an incredible amount of crap into the surprised face of Dave (Jason Bateman), the exhausted father. When Dave opens his mouth to argue with his child’s backside, a final push fills his mouth with the green-brown substance.
I know how Dave feels. In its opening moments “The Change-Up” took a dump in my mouth, and did not relent until the credits rolled.
Jon Lucas and Scott Moore, the writers who gave us “The Hangover” and “Ghosts of Girlfriends Past,” and David Dobkin, the director of “Wedding Crashers” and “Fred Claus,” employ the well-worn device of the body swap.
Oft used to teach us about the value of experience or the preciousness of youth, as in “18 Again” or “Freaky Friday,” or to show us that the grass may not be greener across the gender fence, as in “The Hot Chick” or “All of Me,” the body swap usually employs some ancient rite or childhood wish to move the minds of each individual to the opposite bodies.
Dave and Mitch (Ryan Reynolds), Dave’s irresponsible childhood friend, find a magic fountain, which when peed in, grants the wishes of those urinating.
Dave, stressed out from work and parenthood, longs for Mitch’s freedom. Mitch, irritated that no one takes him seriously or believes in him, desires the responsibility and structure of Dave’s life. One drunken piss later and viola, Dave is Mitch and Mitch is Dave.
From this moment on everything you expect to happen does, without surprise or even much humor. Dave learns to lighten up and enjoy the things for which he’s worked, and Mitch finds out that a little responsibility won’t kill him.
The jokes fall flat, because they rely on shock and surprise instead of a solid set-up or steady build. As an example, Dave, as Mitch, is prepped for a liaison with Tatiana (Mircea Monroe), a sexual buddy that Mitch has been cultivating to fill his Thursday nights. When Tatiana shows up, she’s nine months pregnant. Instead of laughing as the freaked out Dave/Mitch sends Tatiana packing, I just thought, “Hmm pregnant, that joke didn’t really work.”
Women are paraded around this movie as either people who are emotionally old and have loose bowels like Dave’s wife, Jamie (Leslie Mann), or like Dave’s assistant, Sabrina (Olivia Wilde), they are frisky and like sex. God forbid one should show a woman, who enjoys both a good time between the sheets and a solid bowel movement.
Dobkin’s misguided direction wastes a capable cast. Jason Bateman has shown that he’s a more than capable comedic actor in the hilarious Arrested Development, but seems adrift in “The Change-Up.” Ryan Reynolds, who should be right in his comfort zone with this type of material, can never quite pull off either the raunchy immature friend, or the sincere hardworking husband. Mann and Wilde are flat and underdeveloped at best.
Alan Arkin, as Mitch’s Dad, is a fleeting bright spot in an otherwise dismal landscape. In his five minutes of screen time, Arkin brings more heart and character development than we see from the rest of the cast in their two hours.
I expected it to be clichéd, but hoped it would also be silly and fun. Instead “The Change-Up” is a tired and flat film that is never as shocking as it wants to be and lacks any of the emotional appeal that could make the story interesting or engaging. Worthless through and through, “The Change-Up” is a waste of talent, a waste of its production budget, and is an absolute waste of your time.