Monday, August 15, 2011

Change-Up a Screwball

On my most recent day off from work this past week I took the opportunity to make it a "Movie Day.." Doing so meant back-to-back film viewings, usually something you would have to plan out in advance in order to make sure your movie times don't overlap. Sure, you could always so the same thing with DVDs, but when there are so many new films coming out in theaters right now I couldn't justify not taking that chance. I also didn't plan things ahead, purely lucking into a showing of the screwball comedy The Change-Up airing mere minutes after the closing credits for Rise of the Planet of the Apes began rolling. While Rise had been my de facto choice that morning, that had been more due to the film schedule than my actual willingness to see it. The Change-Up was the actual release I'd been waiting for, but fate put Rise in between us, and by that rewarded me with an unexpectedly better than average experience. Afterward in my post-cinema afterglow I decided I hadn't had enough of the theater and that the comedy from Wedding Crashers' director David Dobkin would make a nice foil for the simian-soaked sci-fi drama. I wasn't expecting Shakespeare, but if it was instead the result of monkeys attempting to re-write Freaky Friday, that was all I could have hoped for.

I KNEW they forgot something! It's called "humor".
Best friends since pretty much forever, Dave (Jason Bateman) and Mitch (Ryan Reynolds) have grown apart over the years. Dave, a responsible husband, father and hard-working corporate lawyer, represents everything orderly and intelligent, and has been hard at work trying to make Partner at his firm. Mitch is an aspiring actor and resident slacker, a swinging bachelor who doesn't care who he sleeps with. He represents chaos and pretty much every sin you can imagine. Still, the two are good friends who meet every once in a while for drinks. It is under the influence of these drinks that duo decide it is a good idea to urinate in a public pool while discussing the insecurities of their lives and inadvertently wishing for the live of each other. The next morning, Dave and Mitch find themselves inside the bodies of their best friend, and now everything they've prepared for will come crashing down unless they can switch back in time

Trying to charm his way into a decent movie
Yes, the whole plot has been done before, albeit in more family-friendly settings. Sure, it's a foul-mouthed, R-rated Freaky Friday, but at least the story is told in a somewhat decent manner. The two men are switched because one is overworked and feels he has missed out on his bachelor days, while the other needs to learn responsibility and the reward of an honest day's work. That doesn't quite explain how two such disparate people could have remained friends their entire lives, at least not without seemingly rubbing off on one another a bit more. The lack of logic is only overshadowed by jokes that aren't very funny, or at the very least appeal mainly to the worst of the Jackass fans. Gross-out humor CAN be funny, but in most cases for The Change-Up that doesn't fly, especially when it comes to humor surrounding Dave's twin babies. Sure, you might groan when those jokes hit, but you likely won't be remembering them fondly when you leave the theater.

...I'm sorry, I seem to have suddenly forgotten my snarky comment
The actors do try their best to overcome the weaknesses they are expected to run with. Jason Bateman is probably the best, though if you've seen Paul or Horrible Bosses then you've already seen better Bateman films, though this is the only one where he gets to play against type. The same can be said for Ryan Reynolds, as for much of the film he plays well despite appearing to be more conservative than he would in similar films like Van Wilder. Still, it's hardly the best for either actor, who have had much better material in the past. Olivia Wilde actually puts together some great scenes as Dave's beautiful legal assistant, even if she's sabotaged by a mediocre script. As Dave's wife, Leslie Mann isn't as good as Wilde but also has some good scenes, especially with Reynolds. And Alan Arkin chews through a few scenes as Mitch's emotionally-distant father. There is some definite talent here, but despite some good chemistry they can't quite overcome the mediocrity that is set out for them like a Las Vegas buffet table.

The cast trying to convince each other that this was a good idea
As I said before, gross-out humor can on occasion be funny, but it's the really SMART humor that will get me rolling in laughter every time. While The Change-Up does have a few smart scenes among its crudity, the vast majority of it is only barely watchable and will leave you rolling your eyes in humor frustration. If you HAVE to see something like this, I wouldn't recommend this particular title to whet your appetite. Instead you should check out the much funnier, much smarter Horrible Bosses if you can still find it in theaters. At least that one gives you a good enough reason to spend your hard earned money.

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