The Change-Up

The Change-Up is a raunchy body-swap comedy starring Ryan Reynolds and Jason Bateman. From this, you’ve probably already figured out whether or not it’s for you. If you happen to enjoy raunchy comedies, or are a massive fan of either of the two leads, then you’ll probably have a good time. If you’re so-so about both factors, then you’ll likely want to give it a pass. I happen to fall into the latter category, and ended up less than interested in the film as a result.

The two actors play characters living polar opposite lives. Bateman is Dave Lockwood, married to Leslie Mann’s Jamie, with the pair having three children. He’s a lawyer who works far too hard for his own good. Reynolds plays Mitch Planko, a slacker who works maybe one week out of the year in order to pay the bills (he’s a failure of an actor, so that makes complete sense, right?). His father (Alan Arkin) hates him, but he’s living a fairly envious lifestyle, all things considered. The characters have been best friends since the third grade, although they don’t get to hang out as frequently as they’d like.

They do decide to go out one night, and after many drinks and a baseball game, head to the park for a walk. They simultaneously feel the need to urinate, and while doing so in the local fountain, scream “I wish I had your life” at the same time. I was shocked to not hear a “no crossing streams” joke here, but maybe that’s just me. The next morning, Dave wakes up in Mitch’s body, while Mitch wakes up in Dave’s, right beside Dave’s wife. You can come up with the hilarity that ensues without watching the film.

Here’s what has to happen for The Change-Up to end: Each character has to learn something from being in the other’s body, and then they have to figure out a way to switch back. You’ve probably seen this exact film a few times before, especially considering the majority of mainstream body-swap comedies follow this formula. Seen any of the three iterations of Freaky Friday? Then you’ve already watched this movie. Haven’t? Go do that instead, as the two theatrical Freaky Fridays are more enjoyable than this is.

How long is the ideal comedy? “90 minutes” is my answer. Some can be shorter; I’ve seen 80 minute comedies that know if they ran any longer, they’d get tiresome. Some can even be longer, if they happen to have behind them very good filmmakers. The Change-Up has enough material for 90 minutes, and not a single minute longer. And that’s with credits. It has about 83 minutes of worthwhile film. If cut down to that, removing the unnecessary plot elements and the long stretches between jokes, maybe it might have worked.

That is not, however, what happens. While the focus is certainly on these two characters learning what it’s like to see things from a different perspective, there are so many other things that just don’t matter and would have been better cut. Olivia Wilde shows up to be the love interest of one — or perhaps both — of these characters, but only does so after the halfway point. Before then, she’s just someone pretty to stare at. After, she’s forced into going on a date with one of the characters, and then gets a few scenes as the love interest before the film ends.

Okay, let’s do something that will let you know exactly whether or not watching The Change-Up is for you. Do you find it funny to watch someone getting covered in a child’s feces? And that’s just the first scene. The rest of the film is tamer, although it’s filled with F-bombs which are only briefly subdued so that actual dialogue can get through. Some people reportedly find this funny. I am not one of them.

This isn’t to say that the film is completely without worth, as there are a couple of laugh-out-loud moments and a few other chuckles, but not enough of either to justify spending almost two hours of your life watching The Change-Up. I honestly can’t remember any of them, nor would I want to spoil them anyway, but I remember laughing a few times throughout. Regardless, I shook my head far more frequently, and often wanted to just turn the film off.

The movie’s saving grace comes in the form of its two stars, who actually do a good job in making you believe that they have someone else’s mind inside their bodies. Once the swap occurs, you see the drastic change in the actors’ demeanors, and it’s kind of enjoyable seeing them play against what was established earlier on — as well as against large portions of both of their careers. It doesn’t necessarily make the film funnier, but it does allow you to appreciate that, at the very least, the lead actors weren’t taking the day off.

The Change-Up needed to be better in order for it to be worth your time. That’s as simple as I can make it. Better in what way? All of them, quite frankly. Tighter editing and a funnier script are the key ones, but apart from the lead actors, everything could have been improved upon greatly. Sometimes, a film can overcome these types of flaws and be enjoyable regardless. The Change-Up is not one of those movies. It wasted two hours of my life, and unless you like seeing people defecated upon, it’ll make you feel like you’re the target of the feces. And friends, that’s not a good feeling.

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