Sunday 3 December 2017

Movie Review: The Change-Up (2011)

A body-switch bromedy, The Change-Up finds some good laughs but also too frequently wades into vulgarity.

In Atlanta, Dave (Jason Bateman) is climbing the corporate ladder at his law firm, reasonably happily married to Jamie (Leslie Mann) and raising three kids, include newly born twins. His best friend from college days is Mitch (Ryan Reynolds), a weed-smoking generally unemployed actor drifting backwards through life while enjoying wild sexual encounters. Dave wonders if he has missed out on the fun part of being a grown-up by settling down too early, and finds Sabrina (Olivia Wilde), his paralegal at the office, extremely attractive.

One night after drinks Dave and Mitch pee into a park statue as they express mutual wishes to experience each other's lives, and they wake up the next morning with their bodies switched. They try to explain the situation to Jamie but she thinks it's a prank. With the fountain in the process of being moved and misplaced by the city, Mitch has to deal with a high stakes deal at the law firm and learning to be a domesticated dad and husband, while Dave has to adjust to having all the time in the world to catch up on all he has missed.

Directed by David Dobkin, The Change-Up applies the tried and tested formula of opposite characters experiencing life from the other side. The grass always looks greener over the fence, and here a family-and-career man changes places with a carefree live-for-the-moment guy, and the results are funny if predictable.

Dobkin and screenwriters Jon Lucas and Scott Moore manage to squeeze plenty of laughs along the way. Mitch (in Dave's body) having to deal with the duties of a father with young twin babies gives rise to excellent comic moments. Mitch also wades into the corridors of power at the law firm with a cluelessness that invites farce. Dave (in Mitch's body) has less to do in experiencing life as a jovial bachelor. His encounters with a sex-crazed woman (hiding a secret) and the sleazy underbelly of the acting industry quickly cross over into crude rather than fun territory.

The Change-Up eventually reaches the expected moments of reckoning and self-reflection, both men finding out about themselves by standing outside and experiencing what their social circle sees. But on the way to resolution, the prevailing obsession with crude humour is grinding. Dave and Mitch, in any combination of body residencies, often appear unable to converse about anything other than crass sex, intercourse and genitalia.

Jason Bateman and Ryan Reynolds have a blast in their respective roles, slipping into opposing personas and playing off each other with ease. Leslie Mann holds the domestic fort as the wife running out of patience with an inattentive husband, then having to navigate around the bewildering behaviour of Mitch in Dave's body. Alan Arkin gets a small role as Mitch's frequently re-marrying dad.

The Change-Up inhabits familiar territory, with the hearty laughs and tiresome juvenile antics co-existing in equal doses.

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